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November 14, 2017

Prepregnancy Obesity and Severe Maternal Morbidity: What Can Be Done?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland
JAMA. 2017;318(18):1765-1766. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.16189

There is an obesity pandemic in the United States. In 1991, approximately 12% of the US population was obese,1 and no single state had an obesity rate greater than 15%. In 2014, the obesity rate was 38%,2 and no single state had an obesity rate less than 20%. Assuming that the prevalence of obesity was nearly zero for much of human history, it took thousands of years to reach an obesity prevalence of about 15%, but then just 25 years to more than double that rate. This pandemic is not only in the United States. Obesity rates have increased across most developed countries. Canada, for example, has had a similar increase in obesity, with prevalence reaching 24% among reproductive-aged women in 2012.3 Even in low-and middle-income countries, obesity rates are increasing.4 Health care costs associated with obesity are substantial. According to a 2013 report, obesity was estimated to add $600 per year in health care costs for a 20-year-old and $3800 per year in health care costs for a 70-year-old.5 According to these estimates, it is conceivable that health care costs associated with obesity could be more than $300 billion per year in the United States.

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