Economic evaluation of lifestyle interventions to treat overweight or obesity in children

Int J Obes (Lond). 2012 Apr;36(4):559-66. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.272. Epub 2012 Jan 17.


Objective: To estimate lifetime cost effectiveness of lifestyle interventions to treat overweight and obese children, from the UK National Health Service perspective.

Design: An adaptation of the National Heart Forum economic model to predict lifetime health service costs and outcomes of lifestyle interventions on obesity-related diseases.

Setting: Hospital or community-based weight-management programmes.

Population: Hypothetical cohorts of overweight or obese children based on body mass data from the National Child Measurement Programme.

Interventions: Lifestyle interventions that have been compared with no or minimal intervention in randomized controlled trials (RCTs).

Main outcome measures: Reduction in body mass index (BMI) standard deviation score (SDS), intervention resources/costs, lifetime treatment costs, obesity-related diseases and cost per life year gained.

Results: Ten RCTs were identified by our search strategy. The median effect of interventions versus control from these 10 RCTs was a difference in BMI SDS of -0.13 at 12 months, but the range in effects among interventions was broad (0.04 to -0.60). Indicative costs per child of these interventions ranged from £108 to £662. For obese children aged 10-11 years, an intervention that resulted in a median reduction in BMI SDS at 12 months at a moderate cost of £400 increased life expectancy by 0.19 years and intervention costs were offset by subsequent undiscounted savings in treatment costs (net saving of £110 per child), though this saving did not emerge until the sixth or seventh decade of life. The discounted cost per life year gained was £13 589. Results were broadly similar for interventions aimed at children aged 4-5 years and which targeted both obese and overweight children. For more costly interventions, savings were less likely.

Conclusion: Interventions to treat childhood obesity are potentially cost effective although cost savings and health benefits may not appear until the sixth or seventh decade of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Economic
  • National Health Programs
  • Obesity / economics
  • Overweight / economics*
  • Overweight / epidemiology
  • Overweight / prevention & control
  • Overweight / therapy*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Reduction Behavior*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology