WASHINGTON — The health cost of obesity in the United States is as high as $147 billion annually, according to a new study from Research Triangle Institute and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study, which appeared on-line July 27 in the journal Health Affairs, was released in conjunction with the C.D.C.’s Weight of the Nation conference taking place July 27-29 in Washington.

The study, "Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- and Service-Specific Estimates," found the proportion of all annual medical costs that are due to obesity increased to 9.1% in 2006, up 37% from 6.5% in 1998. The total includes payment by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers, and includes prescription drug spending. The study also showed persons who are obese spent $1,429, or 42%, more for medical care in 2006 than did normal weight people.

Also at the conference, the C.D.C. issued its first comprehensive set of evidence-based recommendations to help communities deal with obesity through programs and policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity. The strategies include promoting the availability of affordable healthy food and beverages, supporting healthy food and beverage choices, encouraging breastfeeding, encouraging physical activity or limiting sedentary activity, and supporting safe communities that support physical activity.

The report, "Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States," along with a companion implementation guide, appears in the C.D.C.’s MMWR Recommendations and Reports. A companion implementation guide is also available on the C.D.C. web site.

"It is critical that we take effective steps to contain and reduce the enormous burden of obesity on our nation", said Thomas Frieden, director of the C.D.C. "These new recommendations and their proposed measurements are a powerful and practical tool to help state and local governments, school districts, and local partners take necessary action."