Obesity costs justify more bicycling investments

A Free Press article last week centered on a new report that exposes the high cost of obesity, which now makes up an estimated 9.1% of all medical spending.

Obesity’s not just dangerous, it’s expensive. New research shows medical spending averages $1,400 more a year for an obese person than for someone who’s normal weight.

Overall obesity-related health spending reaches $147 billion, double what it was nearly a decade ago, says the study published today by the journal Health Affairs.

RTI health economist Eric Finkelstein offers a blunt message for lawmakers trying to revamp the health care system: “Unless you address obesity, you’re never going to address rising health care costs.”

Earlier this week we covered a new report from the CDC that gave strategies on how to reduce America’s obesity rate. Those strategies included investing in our communities to make them more walkable and bikable.

More bike lanes, more sidewalks, etc.

So if obesity costs $147 billion annually, with roughly half financed by Medicare and Medicaid, how much does the federal transportation bill invest in bicycle and pedestrian facilities?

$541 million in 2008 or 0.7% of the obesity-related Medicare and Medicaid costs.

This is further justification to take a more holistic approach to transportation funding. It’s not just about mobility and concrete.

Wise investments in more livable, walkable, and bikeable communities can reduce obesity and the related federal medical spending — as well as everyones health insurance costs.

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4 Responses to “Obesity costs justify more bicycling investments”

  1. Joel Batterman Says:

    Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, gave a good summary of the “holistic approach” at the 2009 Sustainable Transport Awards.

    “It is not possible to develop transport systems,” he said, “unless we know what kind of city we want.” We may treat that discipline as a niche subject, but its central question is nothing less than “How do we want to *live*?” It’s possible, he suggested, that we may not wish to leave this question solely for traffic engineers to answer.

  2. Dave Reid Says:

    Interesting. It would be nice to see at least a bigger portion of the so called pie allocated to bike infrastructure to see how much of an impact it could have.

  3. Tom Betz Says:

    RE: Linkage Sirs: Personal tale. I hate to burst your bubble but I have biked 7300 miles in the last two years yet have gained weight. My Jekyll & Hyde personality lures me from the bike to the refrigerator. Living in the least bicycle-friendly State in the Union (AL), I am all for infrastructure improvements. But it may be stretch to link obesity reduction to it.

  4. Todd Scott Says:

    Today’s Free Press shows obesity rates for Metro Detroit’s counties as well as the city of Detroit.

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