Health-care costs of underweight, overweight and obesity : Australian population-based study

Journal article


Clifford, Susan A., Gold, Lisa, Mensah, Fiona K., Jansen, Pauline W., Lucas, Nina, Nicholson, Jan M. and Wake, Melissa. (2015). Health-care costs of underweight, overweight and obesity : Australian population-based study. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health. 51(12), pp. 1199-1206. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.12932
AuthorsClifford, Susan A., Gold, Lisa, Mensah, Fiona K., Jansen, Pauline W., Lucas, Nina, Nicholson, Jan M. and Wake, Melissa
Abstract

Aim
Child health varies with body mass index (BMI), but it is unknown by what age or how much this attracts additional population health-care costs. We aimed to determine the (1) cross-sectional relationships between BMI and costs across the first decade of life and (2) in longitudinal analyses, whether costs increase with duration of underweight or obesity.

Methods
Participants: Baby (n = 4230) and Kindergarten (n = 4543) cohorts in the nationally representative Longitudinal Study of Australian Children. Outcome: Medicare Benefits Scheme (including all general practitioner plus a large proportion of paediatrician visits) plus prescription medication costs to federal government from birth to sixth (Baby cohort) and fourth to tenth (Kindergarten cohort) birthdays. Predictor: biennial BMI measurements over the same period.

Results
Among Australian children under 10 years of age, 5–6% were underweight, 11–18% overweight and 5–6% obese. Excess costs with low and high BMI became evident from age 4–5 years, with normal weight accruing the least, obesity the most, and underweight and overweight intermediate costs. Relative to overall between-child variation, these excess costs per child were very modest, with a maximum of $94 per year at age 4–5 years. Nonetheless, this projects to a substantial cost to government of approximately $13 million per annum for all Australian children aged less than 10 years.

Conclusions
Substantial excess population costs provide further economic justification for promoting healthy body weight. However, obese children's low individual excess health-care costs mean that effective treatments are likely to increase short-term costs to the public health purse during childhood.

Keywordschild; health-care cost; health services research; obesity; overweight; thinness
Year2015
JournalJournal of Paediatrics and Child Health
Journal citation51 (12), pp. 1199-1206
PublisherBlackwell Publishing
ISSN1034-4810
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/jpc.12932
Scopus EID2-s2.0-84983120350
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1199-1206
FunderNational Health and Medical Research Council
Publisher's version
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online08 Jun 2015
Publication process dates
Accepted23 Apr 2015
Deposited09 Sep 2021
Grant IDNHMRC/546405
NHMRC/390136
NHMRC/1037449
NHMRC/1035100
NHMRC/1046518
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