Objectives To assess the economic effect of the school-based obesity prevention program Planet Health on preventing disordered weight control behaviors and to determine the cost-effectiveness of the intervention in terms of its combined effect on prevention of obesity and disordered weight control behaviors.
Design On the basis of the intervention's short-term effect on disordered weight control behaviors prevention, we projected the number of girls who were prevented from developing bulimia nervosa by age 17 years. We further estimated medical costs saved and quality-adjusted life years gained by the intervention over 10 years. As a final step, we compared the intervention costs with the combined intervention benefits from both obesity prevention (reported previously) and prevention of disordered weight control behaviors to determine the overall cost-effectiveness of the intervention.
Setting Middle schools.
Participants A sample of 254 intervention girls aged 10 to 14 years.
Intervention The Planet Health program was implemented during the school years from 1995 to 1997 and was designed to promote healthful nutrition and physical activity among youth.
Main Outcome Measures Intervention costs, medical costs saved, quality-adjusted life years gained, and cost-effectiveness ratio.
Results An estimated 1 case of bulimia nervosa would have been prevented. As a result, an estimated $33 999 in medical costs and 0.7 quality-adjusted life years would be saved. At an intervention cost of $46 803, the combined prevention of obesity and disordered weight control behaviors would yield a net savings of $14 238 and a gain of 4.8 quality-adjusted life years.
Conclusions Primary prevention programs, such as Planet Health, warrant careful consideration by policy makers and program planners. The findings of this study provide additional argument for integrated prevention of obesity and eating disorders.