August 1, 2011
Science Daily/Children's Hospital Boston
Teaching middle-school children about nutrition and exercise and encouraging them to watch less TV can save the health care system a substantial amount of money, suggests a new economic analysis.
"Because eating disorders can be so expensive to treat, preventing even one case in the five Planet Health schools translated into reducing medical costs by $34,000," says Austin. "But if we scale up our calculations to include, say, 100 middle schools in Massachusetts, the medical costs reduced by preventing bulimia increase to over half a million dollars. And if we scale up nationwide, to say 1,000 schools, the potential reduction in the medical cost burden is sizable."
Austin notes that obesity prevention programs that stigmatize obesity or create a sense of blame can actually contribute to eating disorders. "We need to be smart about choosing obesity prevention strategies that, at the same time, can prevent eating disorders," she says. "Our study shows that when we do both, we substantially increase the benefits, both in terms of health and reducing medical costs."