Obesity Costs Howard County $169 Million Per Year

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Prevalence of Obesity among Maryland Adults , via Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,
Prevalence of Obesity among Maryland Adults , via Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene,

Obesity takes a toll on the body, but it also has an effect on the wider community, too: studies have shown that obese people miss more days of work, earn lower wages, and cost their employers more in terms of workman’s comp claims.

Even in Howard County, the healthiest county in the state, more than half the population falls into the “overweight” or “obese” range, as measured by the (somewhat controversial) BMI; issues related to obesity cost the county’s businesses more than $169 million per year, according to a new study by the Horizon Foundation.

Those costs arise because of the way obesity leads to increased health-care¬† expenses for businesses, as well as decreased productivity. But the study’s not all bad news; it also showed that workplace wellness programs are both cost-effective and useful at reducing absenteeism, health plan costs, and disability costs. Successful plans are easily accessible, supported by upper management, and well-marketed within the organization.

As obesity continues to rise in the United States, more and more studies are examining the aggregate effects it has on the population. The danger, of course, is that such studies may be used to shame people with weight issues. A new study from the University of California, Santa Barbara shows that media stories that attribute obesity to laziness/self-indulgence/weakness may actually make the problem worse, not better. But with the share of Marylanders who are obese doubling between 1990 and 2010, it’s definitely time to find new ways to approach this serious health issue.



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