Obese Children Face Higher Healthcare Costs

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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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