Proposed legislation to cost Maine over $57 million while providing
little impact on obesity
- A study released today by the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University
(BHI) finds that a legislative package intended to reduce obesity rates
in Maine would cost $57 to $58 million in the first year of implementation.
Despite this hefty price tag, there is no guarantee that the legislation
would reduce obesity rates.
was filed in January 2005 to implement the recommendations of the Commission
to Study Public Health, a panel established to examine the causes of
obesity and to identify methods for decreasing obesity-related health
care costs. The Commission recommended a number of measures including
bans on advertising directed at children and steps to provide "body
mass" assessments and increased physical activity in public schools.
The BHI report indicates that the proposal to increase physical activity
requirements for public school students offers the best hope for reducing
obesity on the part of Maine's school children. On average, over the
first year of implementation, and given no change in any of the other
factors affecting weight, this increased spending would provide one
pound of weight loss every 3.5 to 17 weeks for each public school child
the additional physical education teachers required to implement this
proposal would cost $54 million per year - 93% - 95% of the cost of
the entire legislative package. And there is no guarantee that Maine
public school children, once required to spend more time in physical
education, would not increase the number of calories consumed or decrease
other forms of physical activity. Simply spending more on physical education
does not constitute a comprehensive weight-loss plan.
finds that banning television advertising of "unhealthy" foods
and beverages directed toward children would also be ineffective for
reducing obesity. The costs of such a ban would be borne exclusively
by Maine's television broadcasters and advertisers.
to provide Body Mass Index (BMI) assessments for public school children,
post nutritional information on menus and menu boards, and construct
alternative roadways would cost less than $5 million dollars combined.
However, these proposals would provide only a small and uncertain improvement
in Maine's obesity rates.
occurs when an individual retains an excessively high amount of body
fat or adipose tissue, relative to lean body mass. As an extreme form
of being overweight, obesity can pose serious health problems for those
of Americans considered obese has surged over the past few decades,
prompting the Surgeon General to declare, "Overweight and obesity
have reached nationwide epidemic proportions." Currently, Maine
has the highest obesity rate in New England: 59% of adults are overweight
or obese, and 15% of youth are overweight. Subsequently, in 2003, Maine
spent $273 per person on obesity-related costs; this is the 17th highest
amount in the U.S.
study suggests that the solution to Maine's obesity problem lies with
self-discipline on the part of its residents rather than a costly legislative
program that cannot guarantee results.
The Costs and Benefits of Implementing Proposed Legislation to Curb
Obesity in Maine,
is available at http://www.beaconhill.org.
3/30/05 12:19 PM