Obese children aged 2 to 5 are up to 3 times more likely to be admitted to hospital and have substantially higher healthcare costs than healthy weight children, Australian research shows.

The study by University of Sydney’s School of Public Health highlights the higher direct health care costs of obesity in preschool-aged children.

It examines the healthcare use of 350 children including all doctor and specialist visits, medical tests, diagnostics, medicines, hospital admissions and emergency presentations.

Compared with healthy weight children, obese children have 60% higher total healthcare costs, and are 2-3 times more likely to be admitted to hospital, the study shows.

Respiratory disorders and ENT (ear, nose and throat) diseases are the most common reasons for hospitalisation.

“Childhood obesity is a serious public health issue, and is becoming an increasing problem in children under 5 years old,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Alison Hayes.

“In addition to the health impacts of childhood obesity, there are major economic impacts, which may occur earlier than previously thought.”

Recent data suggests nearly one in 4 children in Australia is overweight or obese before they start school.

Dr Haynes says the results are important for health care funders and policy makers.

“Preventing obesity in the early childhood years may be a cost-effective way to tackle the obesity crisis, improve the nation’s health and reduce the economic burden of obesity.”

Last Reviewed: 07/07/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from 6minutes.com.au.


Early childhood obesity: Association with healthcare expenditure in Australia.