Overweight Kids Take More Prescription Drugs
October 5, 2012

More Overweight, Obese Children Take Prescription Meds Than Their Normal Weight Peers

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada recently discovered that overweight and obese children have a high rate of medication use.

The study found that overweight children had a higher chance of taking prescription medicine than their counterparts who were of a normal weight.

“Overweight and obese patients are more expensive to the health-care system in terms of using medication and prescription drugs,” explained the study´s co-author Christina Fung in a prepared statement. “In Canada, we have a public health-care system, and this is an issue of accountability and where health-care dollars are spent, and when.”

Scientists from the University of Alberta´s School of Public Health looked at the medication usage of over 2,000 Canadian children between 2007 and 2009. With data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey, they determined that overweight and obese kids between the ages of 12 and 19 had a 59 percent higher chance of using prescription medicine as compared to their counterparts who were of a normal weight. Furthermore, overweight and obese children were doubly likely to take medication to treat respiratory illnesses like asthma and allergies.

The researchers believe that prescription drug use has doubled over the past 10 years and makes up 17 percent of health care costs in Canada. As such, they advocate that government and health care providers become more informed on the overall health care expenses of patients. The team of investigators also note that the evidence from the study shows that governments should focus on prevention.

“By investing in prevention in kids–promotion of healthy eating and active living–there´s an immediate payback in terms of health-care costs,” commented Paul Veugelers, a professor and director of the Population Health Intervention Research Unit that works with the Alberta Project Promoting active Living and healthy Eating (APPLE Schools), in the  statement. “Children who are not overweight are less likely to develop diabetes, or 30 to 40 years later get a heart attack or end up with cancer. Forty years from now you see a real return in terms of health-care costs.”

The team of investigators concluded that a continuous lifestyle of unhealthy eating along with limited physical activity could lead to children needing to take more medication.

Even though the study was completed in Canada, obesity is a growing epidemic throughout the world. In the United States, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that obesity now affects 17 percent (or 12. 5 million) of all children. As well, children who are obese have a greater chance of having high blood pressure and high cholesterol, diabetes, breathing problems, joint issues and fatty liver disease. Mental issues can also be at play, with obese or overweight children at risk for social and psychological problems like discrimination and low self-esteem. The CDC provides recommendations for parents for combating obesity such as limiting media time to two hours a day, serving water instead of soda to kids, and providing opportunities for physical activity as well as consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The findings of the study were recently published in the September issue of Archives of Diseases in Childhood.