Rampant obesity is costing Bay Area businesses and taxpayers more than $9 billion a year, according to a new study from a Davis-based public health nonprofit.
Californians' expanding waistlines aren't just unhealthy, they're expensive, according to the study released this week by the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. The report estimates that obesity and physical inactivity in adults drains $41 billion per year from California's economy.
That number is nearly double the total from the last survey, released in 2000. The new numbers also show obesity rates are up 33 percent from nine years ago.
Businesses and taxpayers in the nine Bay Area counties lose a combined $9.1 billion annually, according to the data. Alameda County led the way with a $2.2 billion reported cost, followed by $2 billion in Santa Clara County, $1.3 billion in Contra Costa County and $1.2 billion in San Mateo County.
San Franciscans' excess weight drains $1 billion annually. Marin County posted the region's lowest number, at $178 million.
Dr. Harold Goldstein, the group's executive director, said in a statement that these numbers show the need for health-focused public policy at all levels, "from national health care reform and the state's use of federal stimulus funding to regional growth and local policies that help people eat healthy food and be more physically active."
A health and econometrics firm in North Carolina conducted the study, along with its 2000 predecessor. The group says its figures are based on health care costs and costs associated with health-related drops in worker productivity.
In a release, California State Comptroller John Chiang noted that the total cost is roughly one-third of California's state budget. However, since the costs are spread among employers and taxpayers, both public and private sectors bear the brunt of these numbers.
If current trends continue, conservative projections show the cost will jump to $53 billion in 2011, according to the report.
There is a small bright side, however: The report also states that modest health gains could lead to large financial ones. Improving obesity and inactivity rates by just 5 percent over 5 years could cut $12 billion of those costs.
The study considers residents with a body mass index between 25 to 29.9 to be overweight. People with a body mass index of 30 or more are considered obese. The study defines "inactive" people as those who get less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.