Obese Children Face Higher Healthcare Costs

If you’re a parent, here’s another reason to shop for freshly grown organic food: Children and teens who are obese or overweight visit physicians more often—and incur higher healthcare costs—than their healthy-weight peers, according to a report in this month’s edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Sarah E. Hampl, MD, and her colleagues at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics and the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine analyzed data from 8,404 patients ages 5 to 18, using body mass index (BMI) to determine weight status. They measured healthcare  utilization, including number of physician visits and blood tests that occurred within a year from each patient’s initial appointment. Healthcare expenditures were obtained from medical bills.

Dr. Hampl found that 17.8% of the children and adolescents in the study group were overweight; 21.9% were obese.

“When obesity was present, being female, older and insured by Medicaid were associated with a higher probability of having diagnosed obesity,” the authors write. These children had a significantly higher rate of lab tests, most likely due to physician compliance with guidelines for evaluating overweight and obese kids.

“This trend of increased healthcare utilization, observed even in children younger than 10 years, is similar to the trends seen in adult patients,” the authors conclude. “Efforts to continue to educate primary-care providers regarding the diagnosis of obesity and early interventions to address obesity in children are warranted.”

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  • Todd Bradley  January 2, 2007 at 11:40 am

    While I’m a big fan of “freshly grown organic food” when it’s possible to get it, your article seems to associate “freshly grown organic” with preventing obesity, without even a hint of evidence connecting them. Does the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine report address freshly grown organic food in particular? If you think you can’t get fat eating only organic food, I’ve got a bridge I’d like to sell you!

  • Barbara Feiner  January 2, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Todd, the study in question made no distinction between organic and nonorganic food, but it stands to reason that kids who eat freshly grown fruits and veggies (5 servings a day) — and whose parents eschew fast food and processed products — are less likely to become obese (and battle the morbidity and mortality that accompanies obesity in adulthood).

    Fast food is marketed to kids and teens, and it’s a major risk factor for obesity. Parents who cook fresh foods, with an emphasis on whole grains, lean meat, fish, fruits and veggies, teach their kids the importance of making wise food choices, working with them to eliminate or minimize consumption of the fats and sugars that have led to a pediatric obesity epidemic.

    Organic living is a lifestyle choice in a fast-food world.

  • Todd Bradley  January 2, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I agree with you 100%, Barbara. My point is just that kids who eat 5 servings of “conventional” (non-organic) fruits and veggies, who stay away from fast food, and who eliminate or minimize fats and sugars are going to be just as non-obese as kids who do the same but with only organic instead of conventional fruits and veggies. The “organic-ness” has nothing to do with how fattening it is. With “organic” becoming so trendy, the last thing we need is to further dilute its meaning. It would be a pity if Americans start thinking, “I better start eating organic bacon double cheeseburgers instead of non-organic bacon double cheeseburgers, so I can lose some weight. It’s healthier, after all!”

  • Robert Kindelan  January 15, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Sirs: Some folks don’t get it about organic, they look for the gimmick. When I was seven years old I was poisoned by DDT and nearly bought it, I can assure non-believers that organic is best. None of us get out of this rat-race alive, we all die, but contaminating the earth with pesticides, the water, air, etc., is about the craziest thing man has ever done. Think of Madam Curie and how she died. Just sat admiring her creation and it killed her. Children who eat non-organic but shun sugar, white flour, etc., will do all right, but the problem is such children are rare since they have no understanding why they really shun sugar and very few are disciplined so. Those who see the reason for organic and the benefit derived, like it will save the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the animals we domesticate and the people who own them. Saying non-organic is fine providing, etc., is like saying a little poison is all right, what the heck, but it has an accumulative effect. Fight the Monsantos, the General Mills, the Kellogs, and the Altria’s (Formally Phillip Morris) of the world, why fight what’s best, or does Todd Bradley and his like have something else working, like an interest in the status quo of the food manufacturing world. I’ve met them, talked to them, watched them put out junk with the profit first people don’t matter mentality. They care not about our children, us, or anything except money, but it’s money with a price, a terrible one. Those following the organic route are seen as a bit kooky, but what’s truly kooky is that the majority has bought into food so terrible and so laced with stuff one would hesitate to feed one’s worst enemy. 3300+ GRAS ingredients, that’s Generally Regarded As Safe, like formalehyde, MSG, and others one would be hard pressed to pronounce. They were created for one reason, make it cheap, make it sweet, preserve its shelf-life, etc. For instance, ‘Betty Crocker’ brownie mix has about 70 ingrients, but my wife used to make brownies with five or six ingredients, you figure. What would be hilarious is to force food manufacturers and chemical manufacturers, and drug manufacturers to be put in the hotseat and forced to tell their wicked lies when confronted by knowledgeable lay and professionals who find them anathama to life, and they are. If there are ten truly healthy processed food products on the market I would be amazed. I looked and looked and didn’t find any except those that were in the health food section of mainstream supermarkets.

    This is unedited so please excuse the typos, you’ll understand I’m sure.

    RK

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