Obesity and Other Diet- and
Inactivity-Related Diseases:
National Impact, Costs, and Solutions
National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA)
For more information, call Dr. Margo Wootan at 202-777-8354.
 Two-thirds of premature deaths in the U.S. are due to poor nutrition,
physical inactivity and tobacco use. Federal and state governments
conduct effective programs to reduce tobacco use, but programs to promote
healthy eating and physical activity and reduce obesity are limited.
 Obesity is one of the greatest public health challenges of our time.
Overweight and obesity affect the majority of American adults (65%).
Obesity is the nation’s fastest rising public health problem. Obesity rates
among U.S. adults increased by 75% between 1991 and 2001 and rates doubled in
children and tripled in teens over the last 20 years.
The negative health consequences of rising obesity rates are already evident.
Rates of diabetes (most of which is type 2, which is largely due to obesity, poor
diet and inactivity) rose 60% between 1990 and 2001.
All states should be funded by the CDC as soon as possible to promote healthy
eating and physical activity and reduce obesity. Currently, only twelve states are
Unhealthy eating and physical inactivity
cause 1/3 of premature deaths
Two-thirds of premature deaths are caused by poor
nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco. HHS estimates
that unhealthy eating and inactivity cause about 1,200
deaths every day. That’s 5 times more than the number
of people killed by guns, HIV, and drug use combined.1
Leading Contributors to Premature Death1
Diet and Physical Inactivity
Microbial Agents
Toxic Agents
Diet and inactivity are cross-cutting risk
factors, contributing significantly to four
out of the six leading causes of death.
Leading Causes of Death4
(Diet and inactivity are leading risk factors for causes of death
shown in blue.)
1. Heart Disease
2. Cancer
3. Stroke
4. Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases
Sexual Behavior
5. Accidents
Motor Vehicles
6. Diabetes
Drug Use
7. Pneumonia and Influenza
60% of Americans are at risk for health problems
related to lack of physical activity.2 Regular physical
activity helps to prevent heart disease, colon cancer,
obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
8. Alzheimer’s Disease
9. Nephritis
10. Septicemia
11. Suicide
Only 12% of Americans eat a healthy diet consistent
with federal nutrition recommendations.3 The typical
American diet is too high in saturated fat, salt, and refined
sugar and too low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains,
calcium, and fiber.
12. Chronic Liver Disease/Cirrhosis
13. High Blood Pressure
14. Homicide
15. Pneumonitis
Obesity is one of the greatest
health challenges of our time
Almost two-thirds (65%) of American adults are
seriously overweight or obese.5 Obesity rates
increased by 74% between 1991 and 2001.6
Obesity rates have doubled in children and tripled
in adolescents over the last two decades. One in
seven young people are obese and one in three are
Percentage of young people
who are obese8
 Overweight shortens the life expectancy of a 40-year
old adult by three years. Obesity shortens women’s
lives by seven years and men’s lives by six years.7
 Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, high blood
pressure, diabetes, and other chronic diseases as much
as does 20 years of aging.9 Both increase the number of
chronic conditions by more than 50%.
“We must have the… CDC intensify their efforts for
early identification and early prevention of
overweight and obesity, or we are going to have
the first generation of children who are not
going to live as long as their parents.”10
-- Dr. George Blackburn, associate director, Division
of Nutrition, Harvard Medical School
1963-65, 1971-74 1976-80 1988-94
6-11 year olds
12-19 year olds
*Data for 1966-70 are based on adolescents ages 12-17.
Diabetes: Obesity’s Twin Epidemic
 Diabetes rates have risen along with obesity
rates. Between 1990 and 2001, diabetes
rates rose by 61%.6
Diabetes Prevalence
(percent of adults)
 Type 2 diabetes can no longer be called
“adult onset” diabetes because of rising
rates in children. In a study conducted in
Cincinnati, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in
adolescents increased ten-fold between 1982
and 1994.11
 Between 50% and 80% of diabetes cases are
associated with unhealthy eating patterns and
sedentary lifestyles.1,12
 Through physical activity and healthy eating, the onset of type 2 diabetes was reduced by 60% in at-risk
individuals. (In comparison, the diabetes drug metformin reduced the onset of type 2 diabetes by 30%.) 13
 Federal Medicare and Medicaid costs due to diabetes were $14.5 billion in 2000. 14
 Employers pay an average of $4,410 more per year for employee beneficiaries who have diabetes than for
beneficiaries who do not have diabetes.15
Unhealthy eating and inactivity cause
disability and can reduce quality of life
Number of Americans Affected by Diet- and
Inactivity-Related Diseases
Seriously Overweight/Obese16
High Blood Pressure16
Coronary Heart Disease16
Diabetes is a leading cause of serious
disabilities such as blindness and
amputation. Each year, 12,000 to 24,000
people with diabetes become blind, more
than 100,000 receive treatment for kidney
failure, and 82,000 undergo diabetesrelated lower-extremity amputations.17
 The leading cause of permanent,
premature disability in the U.S. labor
force is coronary heart disease, which
causes 19 percent of disability allowances
distributed by the Social Security
Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.16 2.2 million Americans have
disabilities resulting from high blood pressure.20
Most hip fractures are caused by osteoporosis.18, 21 Of people over age 50 who fracture a
hip, 24% die within one year and 25% require long-term care.18 A broken hip is the second
leading cause of admission to nursing homes.
Poor diet and inactivity raise health-care costs
Costs of Diet- and Inactivity-Related Diseases*
$172 Billion
Coronary Heart Disease16
$130 Billion
$117 Billion
$132 Billion
Risk Factor
Increase in Inpatient and
Ambulatory Care Costs
$51 Billion
(current or ever)
High Blood Pressure16
$50 Billion
20 Years’ Aging
$17 Billion
Problem Drinking
*Estimates of annual direct + indirect costs. **Figure includes direct costs only.
Health Care Costs Associated with Risk Factors9
(annual cost per capita)
According to the USDA, healthier diets could prevent at
least $71 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity,
and lost lives.24 CDC estimates that if all physically
inactive Americans became active, we would save
$77 billion in annual medical costs.25
Diet- and inactivity-related diseases increase the out-ofpocket costs to families. For example, diabetes patients pay
about $2,000 per year in drug store expenses.26
Medical costs of General Motors employees increased from
$2225 to $3753 per year with increasing body mass index
(BMI) of the employee (except for that of underweight
Health care spending is expected to rise by 25% by 2030,
since the American population is aging. Chronic diseases
are responsible for 75% of health care costs.28
Average annual Medicare costs are $940 lower
for men and $1185 lower for women with low
blood pressure or low cholesterol than for
those with high blood pressure or cholesterol.29
Federal Medicaid & Medicare Costs, 200014
Heart Disease
$43.1 billion
$18.8 billion
$14.5 billion
$7.0 billion
“Sick Care” versus Health Care
National spending for population-based
Factors influencing gain in life expectancy:
Population-based Prevention ($26 billion)
Curative Medicine: 5 years
Public Health and Preventive Measures: 25 years
Health Care Expenditures ($1.27 trillion)
Since 1900, life expectancy has increased by
30 years. According to the CDC, only 5 of those
years can be attributed to curative medicine; the
remaining 25 years are due to public health and
prevention measures.30
As a nation, we spend about $1.3 trillion each year on
health care. Less than 2% of our health care
expenditures are for population-based prevention
activities.31 Per capita spending for chronic disease
prevention and control is $1.21 per year.32 Although
there are some programs in place for early detection of
disease and managing disease complications, there
are few programs to prevent disease in the first place
(primary prevention).
“Adult” diseases in children
 Only 2% of children eat a healthy diet
(i.e., a diet consistent with federal nutrition
recommendations)33 and 35% are
physically inactive.34 Three out of four
American high school students do not eat the
recommended 5 or more servings of fruits and
vegetables each day.35 Three out of four
children consume more saturated fat than is
recommended in the Dietary Guidelines for
 25% of children ages 5 to10 years have
high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or
other early warning sign for heart disease.37
 Autopsy studies of teenagers and young adults have shown that virtually all have fatty streaks in their arteries
(which is the first step toward clogged arteries). One in ten study subjects had advanced fibrous plaques in their
 Due to rising rates among children, type 2 diabetes can no longer be called “adult onset” diabetes. As the
number of young people with type 2 diabetes increases, diabetic complications like limb amputations, blindness,
kidney failure, and heart disease will develop in people of younger ages (likely in their 30s and 40s).
 From 1979 to 1999, annual hospital costs for treating obesity-related diseases in children rose three-fold
(from $35 million to $127 million).39
Programs that promote healthy eating and
activity can be economical and effective
Physical Activity & Nutrition Promotion
A physical activity and nutrition lifestyle
intervention reduced participants’ risk of
developing type 2 diabetes by 60 percent.
Saint Louis University's Prevention
Research Center built 17 walking trails in
rural communities in Missouri to provide
safe and convenient places to exercise.
Survey data show that 42% of community
residents use the trails and 60% of trail
users report that they have been more
physically active since the trails were
A curriculum taught to middle school
students in Massachusetts integrated
health promotion messages into
traditional lessons, such as math,
science, and language arts. The
curriculum effectively reduced obesity
prevalence by 3.3% among girls
(contrasting with a 2.2% increase in
obesity prevalence in the control group),
increased fruit and vegetable
consumption among girls, and reduced
hours of television viewing among both
girls and boys.
Mass-Media Approaches
A seven-week 1% Or Less campaign in Clarksburg, West Virginia,
doubled the community's low-fat milk consumption from 18%
to 41% of milk sales. The campaign used paid advertising, public
relations, and community programs, and cost just 22 cents per
As a result of a 1999 mass media campaign by the Arizona Nutrition
Network to promote fruit and vegetable intake to food stamp
recipients, consumption of 5 or more servings of fruits and
vegetables per day increased by 127% among individuals with
incomes of less than $15,000 per year, and by 200% among
individuals with incomes between $15,000 and $19,999 per year.
Wheeling Walks, an eight-week population-based campaign to
promote walking in Wheeling, WV, used paid advertising and public
relations activities supported by programs at worksites and at other
community organizations. The campaign resulted in a 15% increase
in the number of people who reported walking at least 30
minutes per day on 5 or more days per week as compared to the
control city.
A campaign sponsored by the Florida Department of Health used
advertising, advocacy and public relations to discourage youth
smoking. The campaign resulted in a 19% reduction in smoking
rates of middle school students and an 8% decline in smoking among
high school students.
Strengthen the CDC’s physical activity,
nutrition, and obesity programs
While one-third of premature deaths in the U.S. are attributable to poor nutrition and physical inactivity,
funding for the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity (DNPA) represents less than 1% of the
CDC’s total budget and is 4% of the CDC’s chronic disease budget.
 FY 2003 funding for the CDC’s Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity is $34.4 million. The program
includes funding for applied research, surveillance, national communications, 12 state-based programs (in
CA, CO, CT, FL, MA, MI, MT, NC, PA, RI, TX, WA) funded at a planning level, and it is likely that three more
states will be funded at the planning level and four more states will be funded at a basic implementation level
with the additional resources the CDC has received for FY 2003. Also, DNPA conducts programs to reduce
micronutrient deficiencies world-wide. In comparison, CDC’s program to discourage tobacco use has a
FY 2003 budget of $101 million and provides funding for every state.
 Although the nutrition and physical activity program has grown by $5-10 million per year over the last
four years, at the current rate of growth it would take seven to 14 years to fund all states. Over the
past decade, obesity rates have increased by 75% and diabetes rates by 60%. 6
 Support a FY 2004 appropriation of $65 million for the CDC to promote healthy eating and physical
activity and to reduce obesity. Increased resources are needed to fund all states. $65 million would allow
the CDC to fund 32 states at a planning level and ten states at a basic implementation level. The average
award for the planning level grants is $400,000 per state, which supports the development of a state-wide
plan for physical activity, nutrition and obesity, partnerships, and implementation and evaluation of
demonstration interventions. The basic implementation grants enable states to expand their efforts to
conduct effective interventions and to provide mini-grants for community-level programs. Funding is also
needed to further develop, test, and disseminate practical interventions and effective policies, to conduct
surveillance and communications campaigns, and to strengthen the CDC’s 5 A Day program.
Strengthen the CDC’s physical activity,
nutrition, and obesity programs
 Funding for the CDC’s Youth Media (VERB) Campaign decreased from $125 million in
FY 2001 to $51 million in FY 2003. The campaign uses paid television, radio and print
advertising, an interactive web site, and community events to encourage children to make
healthy lifestyle choices, with an emphasis on physical activity.
 Provide the CDC with a FY 2004 appropriation of $125 million to restore the Youth
Media Campaign to promote physical activity to youth, and begin message and
program development for a fruit and vegetable campaign.
 The Department of Health and Human Services’ Steps to a Healthier US initiative has
$15 million for FY 2003 to provide grants to communities to prevent diabetes, obesity, and
 Support the President’s FY 2004 budget request of $100 million for the Steps to a
Healthier US initiative to fund communities and states to reduce obesity, diabetes, and
 The National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day program has a FY 2003 communications budget of
$3.5 million to promote the intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruit and vegetable intake is an
important means of preventing cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
“We need to act, individually and as a nation, to
prevent obesity and diabetes.”
- HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, September 2001
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Diet-Related Disease: a leading cause of disability