The Implications of Childhood Obesity

Childhood Obesity, Academic Achievement, and School Expenditures”, by Tami Gurley-Calvez and Amy Higginbotham, both of West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, was the most frequently read article in Public Finance Review in 2010. Tami Gurley-Calvez has provided some additional background to the article:

Childhood obesity rates are rising at alarming rates. Yet the long-term consequences of childhood obesity are not well understood.  In addition to impacting life-long health outcomes, childhood obesity might have long-term implications in other areas, such as productivity, health care utilization and expenditures, and education.  Our study begins to address these issues by examining the relationship between childhood obesity and academic achievement, and whether the negative achievement effects of obesity can be offset with increased school funding.  Future work is likely to address these issues as well as the consequences of these achievement effects on educational attainment and labor market outcomes.  Our results suggest substantial increases in educational funding would be necessary to offset obesity effects for low-income children but there is a critical need for more research to assess where government spending is best targeted to address childhood obesity-related health and education issues.   Ideally, researchers from a variety of disciplines will contribute to the growing body of evidence and collaborate on identifying the most effective policy options.

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