Op-ed: New policies needed to curb costs of obesity epidemic

The economic burden of obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes is staggering, and it often hits low-income and otherwise disadvantaged populations the hardest, according to an August 9, 2018 New York Times opinion piece co-authored by David Ludwig, professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The financial toll of the obesity epidemic also contributes to the national budget deficit by increasing federal spending on medical costs through Medicare, Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, and by curbing worker productivity, which results in reduced tax revenues, the authors wrote.

Ludwig and co-author Kenneth Rogoff, a professor of economics at Harvard, made five recommendations to address the obesity epidemic and limit its economic impact: Create a federal commission to coordinate obesity policy; adequately fund obesity research and encourage innovation; impose a tax on processed foods to help subsidize whole foods; prioritize the quality of the nutrition in the National School Lunch Program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; and ban junk food marketing efforts aimed at children.

Read the New York Times op-ed: The Toll of America’s Obesity

Learn more

An Epidemic of Obesity: U.S. Obesity Trends (Harvard Nutrition Source)