Obese pre-schoolers’ healthcare costs nearly 60% more than healthy-weight children.
Obese pre-schoolers are two to three times more likely to end up sick and in hospital than other children their age, a new Australian study says.
Obese children also accounted for health costs that were 60 per cent higher than other children their age, said the study, which was published in the journal Obesity on Wednesday.
About one-quarter of Australian children aged two to five are overweight and one in 20 is obese.
The study, by the University of Sydney’s School of Public Health, is the first to show the higher direct healthcare costs of obesity in preschool-aged children compared with those of healthy weight.
It tracked the health costs of 350 children aged two to five over three years. These included the costs of tests, medicine, visits to see doctors and specialists, and stints in hospital and emergency rooms.
Obese children were much more likely than other children to be admitted to hospital for respiratory disorders and diseases of the ear, nose, mouth and throat.
Children with a healthy weight used about $2516 in health services over the period of the study compared with about $4124 among obese children.
Early intervention to reduce obesity in children could save Australian taxpayers as much as $17.5 million a year, said lead author Alison Hayes, an associate professor of health economics at the University of Sydney.
But the research found little difference in costs between healthy children and those who were overweight, as opposed to obese, she said.