The hospitalization of heavy children has skyrocketed in recent years, a study shows.
The number of hospitalizations of kids and teens, ages 2 to 19, with a primary or secondary diagnosis of obesity nearly doubled between 1999 and 2005, climbing from 21,743 to 42,429, according to a study published Thursday on the Health Affairs website.
These were stays for obesity-related conditions such as asthma, diabetes, gallbladder disease, pneumonia, skin infections, pregnancy complications, depression and other mental disorders.
The estimated costs for these hospitalizations increased from almost $126 million in 2001 to almost $238 million in 2005. This cost for Medicaid rose from $53.6 million in 2001 to about $118 million in 2005.
Obesity in kids has been leveling off in recent years. About 32% of children and teens ages 2 to 19 -- about 23 million -- were either overweight or obese in 2003-2006 compared with 29% in 1999. The increase is not considered statistically significant.
The hospitalization numbers may be higher partly because doctors are increasingly recognizing obesity as a contributor to other medical conditions, says Leonardo. Trasande, an assistant professor of community medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "This study confirms that being overweight takes a larger toll on children than even previously understood, and these results show there is a larger economic consequence than previously believed. This reinforces the crucial need to prevent obesity in kids."