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Healthcare Costs of an Unhealthy Diet

I have tweeted in the past that increasing SNAP benefits will pay for itself because greater access to healthy foods will drastically cut healthcare expenditures. The statistics below add some specificity to this point.

An unhealthy diet is the leading cause of obesity and cardiovascular disease. Both of these diseases are a burden to the US healthcare system:

  • The annual bill for obesity has been calculated to be $117 billion in medical expenses and lost wages while medical costs for people with obesity are $1,429 higher each year than those of people with a normal weight.

  • Studies show that an unhealthy diet accounts for 40 to 45% of health care costs for chronic cardiovascular diseases. This cost amounts to $50 billion annually.

One could argue that comparing healthcare costs in the United States isn't fair because not everyone has equal access to the same insurance or quality of care. Take Canada then (a country where all citizens have access to universal healthcare):

  • Total costs were...

    • 23% higher for adults in marginally food secure households

    • 49% higher for those in low food secure households

    • 121% higher for those in very low food secure households

(compared with adults living fully food-secure households)

  • On average...

    • Food secure households had an estimated mean annualized healthcare expenditure of $4,208

    • Food insecure households had an estimated mean annualized healthcare expenditure of $6,072

Billions are being spent on treatment, not prevention. Instead of solving the problem on the backend, we should invest in American families and provide healthy food to stop chronic health problems from occurring in the first place.

Not only would this save money, it would also save lives:

  • Obesity alone causes 300,000 premature deaths each year

  • More than 80,000 cancer cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. may be tied to an unhealthy diet, according to a new study

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Acronym Guide

Food Insecurity readings and research use a variety of confusing acronyms. To make these readings more inclusive, I have complied a guide of commonly used acronyms I have come across: FI: Food Insecur


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