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Obesity-related illness could cost Utah billions by 2018

By Randall Jeppesen | Posted - May 15th, 2012 @ 7:35am

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to treat obesity-related illnesses. Estimates show if Utahns don't slim down, that number could rise into the billions in just a few years.

In Utah, more than 60 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese. The state health department's latest numbers come from data collected in 2008. It estimates $485 million was spent on obesity-related health care.

Obesity in Utah
  • Adults - 23.2%
  • Public elementary school students - 9.7%
  • Public high school students - 8.6%

Jump ahead to 2018 and the state predicts the cost will be somewhere around $2.4 billion.

The state says getting the obesity rate to stabilize or drop would lead to massive savings along with better health.

The health department's publication, "Utah Health Status Update: Economic impact of obesity" says obesity is related to many major chronic conditions including:


  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Some cancers

One focus is on school children. In Utah, about 10 percent of elementary kids are considered obese.

The report says working through schools, communities, employers, and health care organizations, Utah can develop an environment that supports a healthy lifestyle and active living.

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