February 6, 2014

Report Details Economic Impacts of Obesity in Howard County

A new study from the Sage Policy Group released today estimates that obesity may cost Howard County businesses as much as $169 million in economic losses each year, a loss that represents approximately 2,500 jobs. The study was sponsored by the Horizon Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the health and wellness of people who live or work in Howard County.

Key findings from the study.

“These numbers are staggering and indicate that there are significant economic consequences for the increase in obesity and related diseases in our county,” said Nicolette Highsmith Vernick, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “But the study offers solutions too, and in addition to the work Horizon is doing to promote healthier lifestyles, businesses can implement measures that improve the health of their employees and their bottom lines.”

Howard County is consistently ranked one of the healthiest counties in Maryland, but with over 50 percent of adults classified as overweight or obese, it is not immune to the complications presented by unhealthy weights, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancers, the three largest causes of premature death in the county.

Using public health data and economic modeling, the report finds that obesity leads to increased health-related costs for businesses and reduce productivity. In its analysis of obesity-related costs, Sage’s team focused on a variety of influences including increased insurance costs, lost hours due to increased sick days, lower wages, and presenteeism.

The study also explores the effectiveness of workplace wellness programs. Their effectiveness varies based on program-design but the most effective ones are shown to demonstrate considerable returns for businesses and improved health and quality of life for employees.

Our modeling shows that obesity and related diseases are clearly impacting business productivity and profitability in Howard County” said Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group. “But we also found that well-designed employee health programs can generate significant ROI for individual businesses.”

The report’s initial findings were presented at a luncheon last summer sponsored by the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and the Horizon Foundation.

A “policy brief” is available to download here: Obesity and Business POLICY BRIEF

The entire report is available to download here: Business Implications of Obesity in Howard County SAGE

The above infographic can be downloaded here: Economic Report Infographic