Obesity runs Cali a $21B tab, $24B for diabetes

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Rates of obesity and diabetes in California are well above the national targets and goals. In the state, costs related to obesity are reported to be $21 billion, and as the rate of diabetes jumped 26 percent from 2001 to 2007, direct costs related to the comorbidity have been reported to soak up $24 billion, according to the results of the most recent California Health Interview Survey.

According to researchers from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, two million Californians have been diagnosed with diabetes, and the majority are obese or overweight. In fact, a quarter of adolescents in the state—almost 970,000—are obsese and overweight making the state's rate twice as high as the national target that is set at 5 percent.

Additionally, the rate of diabetes in California is three times higher than the national goal of 2.5 percent of the population.

"When so many people of different ages, income and educational levels, and cultural backgrounds are struggling with obesity and diabetes, it suggests that 'going on a diet' is not enough," said co-author of the study Allison Diamant, MD. "We need to take a hard look at the environmental and structural factors that contribute to these conditions.”

The results showed that Los Angeles County had the greatest number of obese and diabetic residents, 1.7 million and 642,000, respectively.

The researchers found that those who lived below the poverty line had a greater occurrence of obesity compared to those who lived at higher incomes, 27.7 percent versus 19.6 percent, respectively.

The results also showed that education played a large factor in the prevalence of obesity and diabetes. In fact, the rate of obesity in adults who completed no higher than eighth grade saw a 30.3 percent prevalence of obesity compared to a 14.9 percent prevalence in adults who had completed college. These rates for diabetes were 14.8 percent versus 5.1 percent, respectively.

The authors recommend that policymakers take a closer look at providing and educating people on the importance of exercise and healthy eating.

"It is a travesty that beer and Flaming Hot Cheetos are more readily available than an apple in low-income communities across the state,” said Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of California Endowment, which funded the study.