Cost effectiveness and return on investment of a scalable community weight loss intervention

Prev Med. 2017 Dec:105:295-303. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.10.011. Epub 2017 Oct 5.


This study assessed the lifetime health and economic consequences of an efficacious scalable community weight loss program for overweight and obese adults. We applied a state-transition Markov model to project lifetime economic outcome (US dollar) and the degree of disease averted as a result of a weight loss intervention, compared with no intervention, from a payer perspective. Effect sizes of the intervention on weight loss, by sex, race and ethnicity, and body mass index (BMI) of participants, were derived from a 12-month community program. Relative risk of diseases across BMI levels and other parameters were informed by the literature. A return on investment (ROI) analysis was conducted to present the overall cost-benefit of the program. Simulation results showed that among 33,656 participants and at a cost of $2.88 million, the program was predicted to avert (with a corresponding estimated medical costs saved of) 78 cases of coronary heart disease ($28 million), 9 cases of strokes ($971,832), 92 cases of type 2 diabetes ($24 million), 1 case of colorectal cancer ($357,022), and 3 cases of breast cancer ($483,259) over the participant lifetime. The estimated medical costs saved per participant was $1403 ($1077 of African American men and $1532 of Hispanic men), and the ROI was $16.7 ($12.8 for African American men and $18.3 for Hispanic men) for every $1 invested. We concluded that a scalable efficacious community weight loss program provides a cost-effective approach with significant ROI, which will assist informed decisions for future adoption and dissemination.

Keywords: Cost; Internet intervention; Obesity; Public health.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis / economics*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / economics
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Public Health / economics*
  • Weight Reduction Programs / economics
  • Weight Reduction Programs / statistics & numerical data*