NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 8, 2007

Children and adolescents who are obese or overweight have higher health care utilization and a significantly higher average of health care charges than their healthy-weight peers, according to a report in the January issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

  • According to the article, 30 percent of children in the United States are obese or overweight with six in ten having at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease and 25 percent having more than two risk factors for the disease.
  • The authors note that more than 80 percent of obese 12-year-olds will carry their overweight status into adulthood.


  • Based on the patients' body mass index (BMI), 17.8 percent were overweight and 21.9 percent were obese.
  • Of the obese children, only 42.9 percent had a discharge diagnosis of obesity, suggesting a significant rate of underdiagnosis. 

"When obesity was present, being female, older and insured by Medicaid were associated with a higher probability of having diagnosed obesity," the authors write.

A significantly higher rate of utilization of laboratory services by overweight and obese children was found when compared to their healthy-weight peers.  This increase was most notable for children with diagnosed obesity. 

"We speculate that this increase reflects primary care provider compliance with expert committee recommendations for laboratory evaluation of obese children and adolescents," the authors write. "Compared with their healthy-weight peers, children with overweight, diagnosed obesity and undiagnosed obesity had significantly higher charges, with the highest for the diagnosed obesity category," with an average adjusted difference of $172.

Source: Health Care Expenditures Significantly Higher For Children With Obesity

Medical News Today, January 3, 2007; based upon: Sarah E. Hampl et al., "Resource Utilization and Expenditures for Overweight and Obese Children," Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Vol. 161 No. 1, January 2007.

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