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News Release from Comptroller Susan Combs

Contact: Allen Spelce or R.J. DeSilva
512-463-4070

For Immediate Release
March 23, 2007

Comptroller Report Reveals Obesity Costs Texas Businesses an Estimated $3.3 Billion in 2005
Could Reach a Staggering $15.8 Billion Annually by 2025


Austin—Obesity cost Texas businesses an estimated $3.3 billion in 2005 and could cost employers $15.8 billion annually by 2025 if the trend continues unchecked. Details come from Comptroller Susan Combs, who today unveiled her administration’s first significant research report, Counting Costs and Calories — Measuring the Cost of Obesity to Texas Employers, a comprehensive account of just how severely the costs of obesity affect Texas employers.

“Nearly two-thirds of our state’s adult population is currently overweight or obese, and because of the alarming rise in obesity, we decided to communicate what stake Texas businesses have in stemming the obesity crisis,” Combs said. “The costs are shocking, and the future could be very grim if we don’t take action now to reverse this trend. The trend in obesity is avoidable — not inevitable — but we must take action now.”

Combs commissioned the report to highlight the direct and indirect costs private Texas companies will bear because of rising rates of obesity—estimated at $3.3 billion for 2005 with the potential to reach $15.8 billion annually by 2025. The staggering dollar amount includes the cost of health care, absenteeism, decreased productivity and disability.

Combs has issued a “call to action,” urging Texans to lead the charge and take steps to prevent obesity. Counting Costs and Calories outlines the scope of the obesity epidemic, as well as offering businesses suggestions to curb the trend.

“One way businesses can improve this situation is to shift the focus of their health care plans to reduce future costs for preventable diseases by moving from disease treatment to disease prevention,” Combs said. “Encourage employees to choose healthy lifestyles, offer motivation, knowledge and opportunities to make healthy choices and provide financial incentives to employees.”

USAA, a financial services company in San Antonio, took part in the Comptroller’s survey and showed how its wellness program helped the company slash health care costs.

“USAA is promoting health and wellness by creating an atmosphere where healthy lifestyles are part of our culture, and many of our employees take advantage of our benefits to improve their personal and family’s health,” said Dr. Peter Wald, vice president and enterprise medical director at USAA. “Our data shows statistically significant decreases in adverse health risk factors such as weight and physical inactivity and statistically significant increases in worksite productivity.”

During the Comptroller’s news conference today, representatives from USAA, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, the Texas Health Institute, the Texas Coalition for Worksite Wellness and others attended to support the report and detail their successes in implementing wellness programs. These groups are committed to improving the health and well-being of Texas families and understand the high health care costs Texas businesses face.

“Across the United States, approximately $700 billion in overall annual health care expenditures today are avoidable costs caused by unhealthy lifestyles,” said Dr. Paul Handel, vice president/chief medical officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas. “Companies should create policies that encourage individual responsibility and lead to societal changes that nurture healthier lifestyles.”

Combs stressed the epidemic starts early. In 2005, 42 percent of Texas fourth graders were either overweight or at-risk-of overweight, and 70 percent of overweight children will become overweight or obese adults.

“Our young people are at risk of becoming the first generation of Texans who will live shorter lives than their parents,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson, a former teacher and author of pending legislation (SB 530) designed to improve student health. “We cannot allow this to happen, which is why I am so grateful for Comptroller Combs’s promotion of overall wellness not only in the work place, but for all Texans.”

According to the report, by 2025, most of these overweight children will be in the workforce as overweight or obese adults at a considerable cost to their employers.

“We must work together to encourage healthier lifestyles, reduce the prevalence of obesity, prevent healthy and overweight people from becoming obese and decrease the obesity-associated burden on Texas,” Combs said.

The complete report, Counting Costs and Calories — Measuring the Cost of Obesity to Texas Employers, is available on the Comptroller’s Web site at www.window.state.tx.us.

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News Conference Multimedia

Audio

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Full audio of the news conference. (3.2 MB, MP3)
Text Version

Sound bite 1 :06 outcue: "overweight or obese"
Comptroller Susan Combs reports the percentage of overweight Texans.
"Nearly two thirds of adult Texans, 64.1% are overweight or obese."

Sound bite 2 :11 outcue: "and central Texas"
Comptroller Susan Combs gives the geographic breakdown of the number of obese Texans.
"The highest percentage of obesity is in the valley, region 11, with about 37.4% and then lowest is across the west and central Texas."

Sound bite 3 :10 outcue: "0-5 period"
Comptroller Susan Combs reports the number of overweight 4th graders in Texas.
"Forty two percent of Texas 4th graders already today are either overweight or at risk for overweight and that was for the 04-05 period."

Sound bite 4 :07 outcue: "years ago"
Comptroller Susan Combs reports the obesity cost to Texas private employers.
"Obesity today costs Texas businesses an estimated 3.3 billion dollars, and that was 2 years ago."

Sound bite 5 :18 : outcue: "and disability"
Comptroller Susan Combs breaks down the obesity cost to Texas private employers.
"The obesity costs to our Texas businesses was about 3.3 billion dollars in 2005 alone, and that includes several costs; the cost of the healthcare itself; absenteeism; decreased productivity while at work, which is also known as presenteeism; and disability."

Sound bite Spanish 1 :12 outcue: en lo futuro"
Comptroller Susan Combs says in Spanish that we have an obesity crisis.
"Tenemos un crisis de obesidad por que cuando los empleos y los niños no tienen una vida salud es muy dificil para los negocios en lo futuro."

Sound bite Spanish 2 :18 outcue: "un desastre"
Comptroller Susan Combs says in Spanish that the numbers of obese Texans are staggering.
"Para nosotros, para ver los dólares que podemos perder, $3.3 billiones en 2005 y para pensar el futuro de 15.8 billiones en 2025 es un desastre."

Video

Five-minute excerpt from the news conference. (86.2MB, MPG)

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