HEALTH

Cornell study weighs the cost of obesity

BY Michael Johnsen

ITHACA, N.Y. — Obesity now accounts for almost 21% of U.S. healthcare costs — more than twice the previous estimates — according to a new Cornell University study released Monday.

The research, one of the first to show a causal effect of obesity on medical care costs, utilized new methods and makes a stronger case for government intervention to prevent obesity, the authors wrote in the January issue of the Journal of Health Economics.

The study found that an obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher (in 2005 dollars) than if they were not obese. Nationwide, that translates into $190.2 billion per year, or 20.6% of national health expenditures. Previous estimates had pegged the cost of obesity at $85.7 billion, or 9.1% of national health expenditures.

“Historically we’ve been underestimating the benefit of preventing and reducing obesity,” stated lead author John Cawley, Cornell professor of policy analysis and management and of economics. “Obesity raises the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack and diabetes. For any type of surgery, there are complications with anesthesia, with healing [for the obese]. … Obesity raises the costs of treating almost any medical condition. It adds up very quickly.”


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GNC introduces app for Android, iPhone

BY Allison Cerra

PITTSBURGH — GNC has introduced a new, free mobile application for Android and iPhone devices.

Designed to extend the store experience, GNC said its app, which first debuted last March for iPhone devices, includes such new features as:

  • Updated design: The main menu now is organized with nine user-friendly buttons so users can quickly and easily access the information they want to find;

  • Health Center: Provides easy access to research by ingredient, health concern, lifestyle or goals to help customers discover which supplements are the best fit for their specific need;

  • GNC Who Are You? (GNC WAY): A quick guide that shares information about how all parts of one’s body functions and the GNC products that help them perform at their best; and

  • Clearance aisle: Clearance section that allows customers to stock up on products at "rock-bottom prices."

GNC noted that the new app also includes such original features as:

  • Digital gold card: Scan and stores loyalty card information so customers no longer need to carry it on them

  • Scan, Learn, Save: Customers can read ratings and reviews, discover in-store deals and learn about products simply by scanning the barcode on the product or QR codes featured on store signage;

  • Store locator: Find the nearest GNC store by ZIP code or by your current location;

  • Buy now: Shop and buy directly from GNC mobile, including quick checkout enabled by PayPal;

  • Reminder: Allows users to set scheduled reminders to take their supplements, tracks usage, sends email about compliance, and sets timed alerts for product re-order (only available on the iPhone application); and

  • Deal of the Day: Offers app-only product deals.

"We are excited to further extend the GNC store experience by launching a new version of our application and introducing it to new users," GNC chief marketing officer and e-commerce Jeff Hennion said. "To make sure that we were meeting our customers’ needs, their feedback played heavily into the redesign. In addition to including even more mobile commerce features, we made sure to include health-and-wellness resources that can be accessed from wherever their active lives take them."

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CDC’s stop smoking ad campaign results in a sharp spike in quit attempts

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Sales of smoking-cessation products may realize a March boom following a recent government advertising campaign that encourages Americans to quit smoking.

One week following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s launch of its Tips from Former Smokers campaign, calls to the 1-800-QUIT-NOW quitline were up 130.4%, the agency reported Monday. Calls were up an additional 3.5% in the subsequent week.

A record 34,413 calls were fielded between March 26 and April 1, the CDC reported.

“Although they may be tough to watch, the ads show people living with real, painful consequences from smoking,” CDC director Thomas Frieden said. “For every one person who dies from tobacco, 20 are disabled or disfigured or have a disease that is unpleasant, painful [and] expensive. There is sound evidence that supports these ads — and, based on the increase in calls to 1-800-QUIT-NOW, we’re on our way to helping more smokers quit.”

The ads were launched March 19 and will run for at least 12 weeks on television, radio, and billboards, online and in theaters, magazines and newspapers nationwide. Previous experience from state and local media campaigns promoting quitlines shows at least five to six smokers try to quit on their own for every one person who calls a quitline.

The campaign features compelling stories of former smokers living with smoking-related diseases and disabilities, and the toll smoking-related illnesses take on smokers. The ads focus on smoking-related lung and throat cancer, heart attack, stroke, asthma and Buerger’s disease, a rare condition affecting arm and leg arteries and veins.


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