Modeling The Economic And Health Impact Of Increasing Children's Physical Activity In The United States

Health Aff (Millwood). 2017 May 1;36(5):902-908. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2016.1315.


Increasing physical activity among children is a potentially important public health intervention. Quantifying the economic and health effects of the intervention would help decision makers understand its impact and priority. Using a computational simulation model that we developed to represent all US children ages 8-11 years, we estimated that maintaining the current physical activity levels (only 31.9 percent of children get twenty-five minutes of high-calorie-burning physical activity three times a week) would result each year in a net present value of $1.1 trillion in direct medical costs and $1.7 trillion in lost productivity over the course of their lifetimes. If 50 percent of children would exercise, the number of obese and overweight youth would decrease by 4.18 percent, averting $8.1 billion in direct medical costs and $13.8 billion in lost productivity. Increasing the proportion of children who exercised to 75 percent would avert $16.6 billion and $23.6 billion, respectively.

Keywords: Children’s Health; healthcare costs; obesity; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Efficiency
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Health Care Costs / trends*
  • Humans
  • Models, Statistical
  • Pediatric Obesity / economics
  • Pediatric Obesity / prevention & control