This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

August 20, 2008

Obesity, Costs, and Wellness

According to the United States Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (, "all US adults could be overweight in 40 years". This frightening forecast is a finding in their government-funded study. Two-thirds of the population is already characterized as being "overweight", so any increase should cause alarm. These new projections, published recently in the journal "Obesity", are based on data collected over 34 years.

By the year 2030, 86 percent of US adults could be overweight with an obesity rate of 51 percent. "Obesity" is defined as weighing 20 percent above the recommended weight for height and age, while "overweight" is defined as weighing "more than is healthy for your age and size". If the trends continue, by 2048, all US adults could be at least mildly overweight.

The study projects weight problems will be most severe among selected groups, notably African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. All African-American women and more than 90 percent of Mexican-American men could be overweight by 2034.

"Genetically and physiologically, it should be impossible" for all US adults to become overweight", said Dr. Lan Liang, a researcher on the study. However, the data suggest, "that is the direction we’re going. This is really intended as a wake-up call to show what could happen if nothing changes", she said.

If nothing does change, healthcare costs directly related to being overweight and obese will double each decade, reaching $957 billion in 2030—accounting for one-sixth of the healthcare dollars spent in the US.

Just telling people to eat less and exercise more is not enough; widespread efforts are needed to improve Americans’ lifestyles and keep their weight healthy. Other suggestions include: "making communities more pedestrian-friendly so that people can walk regularly [and] getting the food industry to offer healthier, calorie-conscious choices". Liang continues: "It really needs to be more than an individual effort; it needs to be a societal effort".

Our belief is that wise employers will continue to provide or upgrade their incentive programs for workers who maintain healthy bodyweight and refrain from engaging in unhealthy activities, e.g., smoking. As other recent studies have proven, wellness programs work.

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