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Employers' Institute To Fight Obesity With HMO Assistance

Health plans are among the major players in medicine that employers are turning to in an effort to combat rising costs associated with obesity.

The Washington Business Group on Health in June launched a new effort, called the Institute on the Costs and Health Effects of Obesity, to address this troubling trend.

The WBGH, a group of 175 large employers, wants the institute to draw on research financed by the federal government in encouraging overweight workers to slim down.

Among the institute's founding board members are officials of the American Association of Health Plans and Aetna.

"The institute provides a crucial forum for private and public organizations to work together to develop innovative, proactive strategies for addressing obesity and its implications," says William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, director of the division of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The centers will be one of the data sources for the institute, along with the Institute of Medicine.

Different studies estimate the annual price tag associated with obesity differently and come to different conclusions: $93 billion, or $78.5 billion, or --the figure offered by WBGH — $12 billion. However the costs are calculated, the numbers are daunting.

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