Obesity is a known and growing problem worldwide. In the United States, estimates of the financial impact of obesity amount to $150 billion a year in medical expenses. For employers, it is estimated the associated costs top $73 billion a year. But for many companies, expenses attributable to obesity are difficult to estimate.
Obesity is usually accompanied by a wide array of health complications that require costly treatments or therapies. Because wellness programs come with their own associated costs, companies are in need of a tool that translates data into decision-driving information. Forward-thinking organizations continue to look for ways to quantify the magnitude of the obesity challenge and to assess the options and benefits of providing interventions and incentives to better manage the health of employees.
Numbers Tell a Story
Our researchers sought to better understand the complex relationship among weight, obesity comorbidity conditions, medical expenditures, and work loss. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation, we developed a methodology that estimates the medical costs and work loss attributable to obesity. The result was the Obesity Cost Calculator.
Since the calculator’s inception, our researchers have continued to develop the tool and recently released a portable version, available for iPad, with updated outputs based on the most recently available data. The new version has enhanced graphical displays with an enhanced user-friendly interface that is both efficient and simple to use.
The tool estimates the costs of obesity based on user-provided characteristics of the company. The results include estimated medical expenditures and the dollar value of increased absenteeism resulting from obesity. Costs are estimated separately for four groups based on body mass index.
Additionally, the Obesity Cost Calculator includes a module that assesses expected costs of interventions to reduce obesity, potential reductions in medical costs, and work loss resulting from interventions and the number of years before a break-even period is reached.
A Tool That Helps Build Better Health
The Obesity Cost Calculator has evolved with the needs of consumers into a two-part tool that allows organizations to estimate medical and absenteeism costs of obesity from an employer perspective, and to analyze return on investment of user-defined weight loss interventions.
Using our tool, benefits consultants and companies that provide health and wellness programs to employers can demonstrate the rising costs of obesity and the estimated benefits of interventions.