Children with Obesity Have Higher Healthcare Costs

Healthcare costs were 60% higher in obese preschool children compared with children with a healthy weight.

A new study found that preschool aged children with obesity are more likely to be admitted to the hospital, and have higher healthcare costs compared with children at a healthy weight.

"Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under five years old," said study lead researcher Alison Hayes, PhD. "In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought.”

The study examined the healthcare use of 350 children aged 2- to 5-years-old. Physicians and specialist visits, medical tests, diagnostics, medications, hospital admissions, and emergency presentations were included. The results showed that obese children were more 2 to 3 times more likely to have a hospital admission.

Children with obesity also had 60% higher healthcare costs. Hospital admissions and healthcare costs were significantly increased among respiratory disorders, or in diseases of the ear, nose, mouth, or throat, according to the study.

"We know that children who are obese in early childhood are more likely to be obese in later childhood, adolescence and adulthood, which can lead to serious chronic diseases that have a huge impact on our health care system. Early prevention of obesity is important to improve children's health, but there are also likely to be immediate savings in healthcare costs,” Dr Hayes concluded. "Our results are important for health care funders and policy makers because preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation's health and reduce the economic burden of obesity."