New findings by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues have identified strategies that are effective in helping keep kids’ weight down and that get a significant bang for the health care buck. The five-year collaborative Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost Effectiveness Study (CHOICES) modeled the costs and benefits for four approaches: taxing sugary beverages, eliminating the tax subsidy for advertising on children’s television, increasing physical activity in schools, and developing preschool and daycare programs that provide early exposure to healthy habits.
An overview paper and related papers on each of the four strategies were published online June 17, 2015 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
The researchers documented the lowest cost and greatest return on investment from the tax-based strategies. They found, for example, that implementing the sugar sweetened beverage tax nationally would cost $51 million in the first year and reduce consumption of these drinks by 20%. Modeling the effect the change would have on daily calorie reduction and subsequent body mass index decrease, they estimated that every dollar spent in implementation would result in $55 saved in obesity-related health costs.
“Targeting just a few things in children’s lives — fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, less screen time and more physical activity — can have significant results,” said project leader Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology, said in a New York Times article published online June 22, 2015, adding that “preventing childhood obesity lays the groundwork for a future reduction in adult obesity.”
CHOICES is a product of the Harvard Prevention Research Center. Its research team has generated cost-effectiveness estimates for more than 40 of the most widely promoted or implemented childhood obesity prevention interventions, many of which have never been fully evaluated for comparative- or cost-effectiveness.
Prudent Ways to Fight Childhood Obesity (New York Times)
Cost Effectiveness of Childhood Obesity Interventions (American Journal of Preventive Medicine abstract)