Obesity Prevalence and Costs Rise; House of Representatives and Supreme Court Hamstring Fight Against Obesity

A new report to be published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimates a 33 percent increase in obesity prevalence and a 130 percent increase in severe obesity prevalence over the next two decades. By 2030, according to this forecast, 42 percent of Americans will be obese and 11 percent severely obese. The authors conclude that “if these forecasts prove accurate this will further hinder efforts for healthcare cost containment.” The authors also conclude that if obesity rates stayed at the 2010 levels, the combined savings in medical expenditures by 2030 would be $549.5 billion.

Another new report published in the Journal of Health Care Economics estimated that the total cost of health care associated with U.S. obesity is now $190.2 billion a year, or 20.6 percent of total U.S. health spending – twice as much as previously reported.

Last month, the US House of Representatives voted to eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund in order to pay for legislation dealing with student loans. Although the measure is not expected to pass the Senate and President Obama has vowed to veto it, by this vote the House proposed to eliminate one of the few streams of funding to support preventive measures to reduce obesity and other health problems that contribute to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Last week Public Citizen and the National Association of Consumer Advocates released a report called Justice Denied One Year Later. The report notes that in the one year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, consumers have regularly been blocked from pursuing class-action cases. In its Concepcion decision, the court vastly expanded the reach of arbitration by ruling that corporations could block the consumers they force into arbitration from pursuing cases as a class.

According to the report:

Since Concepcion, judges have cited the case in decisions that stopped at least 76 potential class-action lawsuits from going forward. Several judges have expressed frustration that the decision has forced them to stop consumer actions that are best suited to proceed as class actions. Class-action lawsuits historically have provided a means to combat illegal payday lending practices, contest poor business practices and confront discriminatory auto lending. But Concepcion has left many consumers without a means to pursue redress.

In the case of tobacco, public health experts agree that class action lawsuits played a vital role in strengthening public health protection against a tobacco industry determined to make profits even at the expense of their customers’ health.

Whatever the intentions, by seeking to de-fund one of the few federal funding streams for prevention of obesity and other diet-related diseases and by denying consumers a powerful tool to change food industry practices that have been shown to contribute to obesity, the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court have voted to endorse the status quo of rising obesity rates.


Image Credits:

1. allgoodprovisions.com