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Obesity Weighs on California's Economy

New America Media, News Report , Viji Sundaram Posted: Jul 09, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO -- Fat people are a greater drain on Californias already troubled economy than their slimmer counterparts, says a study released today that looks at the economic costs of being obese.

Commissioned by the non-partisan California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), the study suggests that there has been a 33 percent rise in obesity rates since a similar study was done in 2000. That has contributed to sharp increases, not only in health care costs but also in lost productivity.

The study is based on research that links poor health to obesity and physical inactivity. It shows that obesity, which is the single highest risk factor for diabetes and cardio-vascular disease, claims a larger percentage of the states annual health care costs ($21 billion) than physical inactivity ($20.2 billion).

Although the study doesnt offer a breakdown by race or ethnicity, folks in minority communities are more affected by obesity, said Dr. Harold Goldstein, CCPHAs executive director.

Although California currently has the 35th widest waistline in the nation, its healthcare cost is $41 billion, higher than most other states. That cost could climb to $53 billion by the year 2011.

The longer Latinos and Asian Americans live in this country, the more obese they become, Goldstein said. First generation Latinos, for instance, have a lower obesity rate than the general population (26 percent), but by the third generation, the rate is significantly more (34 percent).

Theres something about living in this country that affects peoples eating habits and physical activities, he said, noting, California cannot afford to perpetuate this obesity epidemic.

Goldstein stressed that the study points to the critical need for building community health and prevention into public policies at every level, from national health care reform and the states use of federal stimulus funding to regional growth and local policies that help people to eat healthy food and be more physical active.

Cities need to make health a priority than an afterthought, he said.

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