The price we pay for obesity: diabetes drives hospital costs

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported yesterday (see full report) that 1 in 5 hospitalizations in 2008 involved a person with diabetes. This amounted to 7.7 million hospital stays at a cost of $83 billion in just the hospital costs. Diabetics had hospital stays that were longer, on average, and more likely to originate in the emergency department than stays for patients without diabetes. While diabetes was the indication for hospitalization, many of these patients were admitted with circulatory disorders or complications due to their diabetes.
Why this matters
Medicare covered almost 60% of the total hospital costs for these diabetic patients. So we all paid our share.
Second, diabetes is driven by obesity and lack of physical activity, with poor diet adding further risk. We have previously shown that the vast majority of diabetes in adults is preventable. This is supported by randomized trial evidence that weight loss reduces incidence of diabetes.
Importantly, we have discussed the role of diabetes and obesity as causes of cancer, yet another cost to society.  These disease and their costs are avoidable through prevention.
So while the pattern of hospitalization for diabetes tracks the CDC maps of obesity – higher rates of hospital sat in the South, the cost to society of not acting to prevent adult weight gain and the ensuing health consequences is adding enormously to the costs of our health care system. We have the strongest evidence that weight control can avoid many of the complications of overweight and obesity, not just diabetes but also cancer and heart disease.
Following the steps we outline can prevent cancer now. We need to increase our focus on weight control at the clinical level of primary cancer; at the policy level through strategies that can make activity a part of our everyday lives (and reinforce these behaviors once we all adopt them); and through our communities and schools so that we all move to a healthier lifestyle before our hospitals buckle and collapse under the weight of obese diabetic patients.

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