Purpose of review: The rising prevalence of obesity amongst children and adolescents is a growing public health burden. This study reviews recent studies, first, examining the economic consequences of childhood obesity, and, second, evaluating the cost-effectiveness of programs to prevent and to manage childhood obesity.
Recent findings: Evidence of the impact of childhood obesity on healthcare costs for children is ambiguous. Although one study did not find increasing costs with increasing body mass index (BMI), in some other studies this effect was visible--partly only in subgroups. The evaluation studies show that in order to reach acceptable cost-effectiveness values, interventions cannot focus solely on physical activity, but must include nutrition as an intervention target. Moreover, there is some evidence supporting the expectation that childhood obesity prevention may be successful in combining health gains with net cost savings.
Summary: There is a need to estimate the costs of childhood obesity as an essential part of identifying cost-effective treatment and prevention measures. Given the diversity and shortcomings of the methodological approaches chosen in the existing evaluation studies, there is an urgent need both for more standardized economic evaluations of those measures and more methodological research.