Health & Wellness

University Study Finds Youth Obesity Could Cost Maine More Than $1 Billion

A new study from the University of Maine found obesity among children and teenagers could raise the state’s medical cost to up to $1.2 billion by 2030.

The study, conducted by UMaine’s economics professor Todd Gabe,  reviewed statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and data of about 2,000 school-age children from 18 schools across Maine. Today, less than 8 percent of Maine’s youth are obese, but if these children and teenagers continue to add weight into adulthood, the proportion is likely to increase to more than 25 percent.

“We’ve all heard about the nationwide obesity epidemic, and these figures bring the problem — especially the challenge facing our children as they become adults — closer to home,” Gabe told the Bangor Daily News.

Gabe’s estimates is based on the medical costs of obesity, including inpatient and outpatient treatment and prescription drugs. He said it doesn’t include indirect costs, such as lost productivity at work when those children become adults.

To curb future medical costs from obesity, Gabe suggested slashing the percentage of Maine children who are currently obese by 34 percent, a move that could save Maine $100 million over 20 years.

The study was funded in part through a partnership among the Maine Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance; the Maine Department of Education; and UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development.

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