Costs of managing conditions associated with obesity among Australian teenagers

Authors


Dr Michael L Booth, Level 2, Medical Foundation Building K25, School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW 2006, Australia. Fax: +61 2 9363 4907; email: vivi5@idx.com.au

Abstract

Aim:  To determine the health-care charges associated with monitoring and managing, over 1 year, the cases of elevated insulin concentration, elevated alanine aminotransferase concentration and dyslipidaemia due to overweight or obesity among 15–19-year-old Australian males and females.

Methods:  Fasting blood samples (n= 500) were collected in 2004 from a representative population sample of adolescents (n= 496; mean age 15.3 years) attending schools in Sydney, Australia. Full service charges and Medicare expenditures for specialist medical and dietary consultations, pathology tests and radiological investigations, over 1 year, under efficient and inefficient health-care delivery models, including and excluding participants in the healthy body mass index (BMI) category.

Results:  Under an inefficient delivery model and including all participants with elevated risk factors, the Medicare expenditure was $A305.1 million per annum (M pa). Exclusion of participants in the healthy BMI category resulted in an annual Medicare expenditure of $A170.0M pa. Under an efficient delivery model and including all participants with elevated risk factors, the Medicare expenditure was $A295.5M pa. Exclusion of participants in the healthy BMI category reduced annual Medicare expenditure to $A164.8M pa. Medicare expenditure for 15–19-year-olds would increase by 48% if only cases among overweight and obese adolescents were treated and by 85% if all cases were identified and treated.

Conclusions:  Short-term management of the health consequences of overweight and obesity among adolescents will increase Medicare expenditure on this group by at least 48%. Failure to treat will delay, but compound, health-care expenditure.

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