The impact of obesity on COVID-19 outcomes of hospitalizations and mortality
Since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic in March 2020, scientists, healthcare workers, and public health experts have learned a great deal about the pathophysiology of the coronavirus, as well as the patient populations who are most vulnerable. Understanding how to mitigate risk for these populations can have a tremendous impact on reducing hospitalizations, deaths, and associated healthcare costs. Obesity is linked with higher risk for several serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease, among others. But obesity has also emerged as a major risk factor for severe COVID-19 infection. Since over 40% of the US population has obesity, updating policies to support the treatment and prevention of this disease should be part of a comprehensive response to COVID-19.
This issue brief takes a look an Xcenda-developed model that shows that even a small reduction in obesity prevalence could result in fewer deaths from COVID-19. It also highlights the need for policymakers to ensure all patients have access to anti-obesity services and treatments to potentially reduce the risk of adverse outcomes from pandemics in the future.
*June 2021 update: we refreshed the model to include adverse outcomes due to COVID-19 as of April 2021. The results are sobering: if the prevalence of obesity were reduced by 25% at the start of the pandemic, the US would have had 119,000 fewer hospitalizations, almost 45,000 ICU admissions, and 65,000 fewer deaths. The updated issue brief can be found here.