Obesity Costs Albertans $1.27 Billion (or more)

A recent report commissioned by Alberta Health Services estimates that in 2005, the total direct and indirect costs of illnesses attributable to obesity in Alberta were $1.27 billion.

This represents 28.0% of the total direct and indirect costs attributable to obesity for 22 specific health conditions and 5.6% of the total direct and indirect costs for all health conditions in Alberta.

Coronary heart disease ($307.1 million) had the highest direct and indirect costs attributable to overweight and obese BMI status; osteoarthritis ($167.7 million), type 2 diabetes ($161.5 million), hypertension ($125.5 million), and the 14 cancer sites ($117.5 million) had the highest obesity-attributable costs after coronary heart disease. Among the 14 cancer sites, colorectal cancer ($31.6 million), postmenopausal breast cancer ($14.5 million), and leukemia ($11.0 million) had the highest costs attributable to overweight and obesity in Alberta.

While the direct health care cost attributable to overweight and obesity was $630.1 million, or 49.5% of the total cost of overweight and obesity, the indirect cost was $643.8 million including $63.1 million in short-term disability costs, $209.6 million in long-term disability costs, and $371.1 million in premature mortality costs.

As the report notes, these costs are conservative as the analysis did not include the costs for:

  • Private out-of-pocket costs such as those paid for private caregivers, illness-related aids, and home modifications not reimbursed by governmental agencies;
  • Costs associated with reduced production during work hours (presenteeism) as a result of a health problem;
  • The value of time lost from work
  • The value of lost leisure time of family members or friends who care for the patient;
  • Intangible costs that involve pain and suffering borne by patients and their families.

The report also did not assess the cost of obesity in youth under age 15 or in the Aboriginal population living on reserves.

Although the report did not analyses how much of these costs could be reduced or avoided by providing effective obesity treatments, it is very likely (based on other estimates) that the savings could be substantial.

As I have said before, no health care system can afford not to tackle obesity.

Edmonton, Alberta

The Summary of The Cost of Obesity in Alberta Report is available here