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For Immediate Release:
April 05, 2005
For more information contact:
DPH Communications
Tel (213) 240-8144 Ï Fax (213) 481-1406

County Health Department Responds to State’s Report on Cost of Obesity

Epidemic Costs California $21.7 Billion Annually

A correction was made to this release on 4/12/05. Instead of “Nearly half (47.3%) of Los Angeles County adults'” in the last sentence of the 4th paragraph, the correction is ”More than half (52.7%) of Los Angeles County adults”.

LOS ANGELES – The California Department of Health Services (CDHS) today announced that physical inactivity, obesity, and overweight costs California $21.7 billion a year: $10.2 billion in direct and indirect medical care costs, $338 million in workers’ compensation costs, and $11.2 billion in lost productivity costs. The report, The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity, Obesity, and Overweight in California Adults: Health Care, Workers’ Compensation, and Lost Productivity, estimated the annual costs of physical inactivity at $13.3 billion, obesity at $6.4 billion, and overweight at $2.0 billion.

About three-quarters of the costs were found to be shouldered by public and private employers in the forms of health insurance and lost work productivity. The report projected that costs would reach $28 billion in 2005 if population trends and rising health care costs continued. This is the first such research conducted for California. The full report is available online at www.ca5aday.com.

“The cost is shocking. The implications these numbers have on Los Angeles County is very significant,” said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the County’s Health Officer and Director of Public Health. “Everyone needs to have access to healthy food and physical activity at the worksite and in their communities. This is vital for our community’s health, and for our economy.”

Over the last decade, California has experienced one of the fastest rates of increase in adult obesity of any state in the nation. More than half of adults in Los Angeles County and California now are overweight or already obese. Recent findings from the Los Angeles County Health Survey indicate a steady rise in obesity among county adults, from 14.3% obese in 1997 to 19.3% in 2003. The epidemic is particularly severe in the African-American and Latino populations, where obesity rates have reached 31% and 24%, respectively. Nearly half (47.3%) of Los Angeles County adults do not meet recommended levels of physical activity.

“We need to make an investment in our future – starting now,” said Johanna Asarian-Anderson, Director of the County’s Nutrition Program. “In addition to worksite improvements and wellness programs, the broader community needs to support a healthy environment by offering access to healthy eating and physical activity. We need to stop deliberating and start acting.”

To reverse the current trends in physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services is working with community leaders, business leaders, policymakers, city planners, and schools on a number of activities and initiatives:

Since August of 2002, the Board of Supervisors commissioned the Blue Ribbon Task Force Report on Children and Youth Physical Fitness. As a result of this report, the County convened the Physical Activity and Nutrition Task Force (PANTF), bringing together county departments and community organizations to address the issues of poor nutrition and lack of physical activity in the county. PANTF is working on policy initiatives, promoting ways to increase physical activity through partnerships with the parks and schools, and worksite wellness initiatives.

The department is a member of the Los Angeles Collaborative for Healthy Active Children, a county-wide network of over 100 health and nutrition organizations formed to address the epidemic of overweight and unfit children. A chief recommendation from a recently released report, Taking the First Step with a Healthy Breakfast (available at http://lapublichealth.org/nut), is to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program, especially among low-income families with children. Eating a healthy breakfast every day is associated with reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The California Endowment has awarded the department four- year funding awards for Healthy Eating, Active Communities initiatives in Baldwin Park and South Los Angeles. The department is working with community partners and local school districts to prevent overweight and obesity among school-age children by improving physical activity levels and nutritious food choices at schools. Activities will include after-school programs, health education in neighborhoods, improved access to health services, and policy changes.

The Office of Women’s Health has launched a multi- component, multi-lingual Prevention Matters! campaign to promote awareness about heart health and to increase access to life-saving preventive services and health screenings, especially among low-income women.

Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health.