Agriculture and Health Policies in Conflict: How Subsidies Tax our Health: The Toll of Chronic Diseases

The Physicians Committee

Agriculture and Health Policies in Conflict  How Subsidies Tax our Health


The Toll of Chronic Diseases

Cardiovascular Disease
About 81.1 million people in the United States have at least one form of cardiovascular disease. Approximately 2,300 Americans die every day from cardiovascular disease.2

More than 1.5 million new cancer cases are diagnosed annually. Cancer kills about 570,000 Americans each year, accounting for one in every four deaths.3

one in three kids will develop diabetesAn estimated 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. Another 79 million adults have prediabetes.4 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that one in three children born in 2000 will develop diabetes at some point in their lives.

one third of the adult poplulation have high blood pressureAbout 74.5 million American adults—about one-third of the adult population—have high blood pressure.5 In 2006, hypertension killed 56,561 Americans, with African-American women and men more than two and three times as likely to die from hypertension, respectively, compared with their white counterparts.

two-thirds of Americans are overweight Two-thirds of the American population is currently overweight, half of whom are obese.6 One in three children is now overweight, and one-fifth of children are obese.7 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 20 percent of adolescents ages 12-19 years have at least one abnormal lipid level – LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, or triglycerides. Among overweight and obese adolescents, those rates were higher, with 22 percent of overweight and 43 percent of obese children having one or more abnormality.8

The Cost of Illness
The cost of poor health is both personal and financial. Cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension cut short the lives of affected individuals and are major contributors to serious disabilities. For diabetes, these include blindness, loss of kidney function, amputations, and chronic neuropathic pain.

The direct medical costs (payments to health care professionals, hospitals and nursing homes, medications, and medical supplies) of chronic diseases run in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually. 

The direct medical costs associated with obesity in 2008 totaled $147 billion.9 In 2010, heart disease cost $189.4 billion dollars, hypertension cost $54.9 billion dollars,10 and cancer cost $102.8 billion.11 Diabetes cost $116 billion dollars12 in 2007. These figures all represent direct medical costs. Indirect and intangible costs, such as lost productivity and pain and suffering, add considerably more.

Despite efforts by groups working to reverse America’s current health trends, health care costs are expected to increase substantially over the next decades. The American Heart Association estimates that, by 2030, direct costs related to cardiovascular disease will triple to around $818 billion.13 The costs for treating cancer are projected to increase to $173 billion by 2020.14 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes prevalence will increase to one in three by 2050, compared with roughly one in ten today.15

Direct Medical Costs for Chronic Diseases


$116 billion dollars (2007)


$147 billion (2008)

Heart disease

$189.4 billion (2010)


$54.9 billion (2010)


$102.8 billion (2010)

Past and projected costs of disease
Cardiovascular disease
$273 billion 2010
$818 billion 2030

Obesity cost
2007  $147 billion
2030  $861-957 billion

2010 $102.8 billion
2020 $173 billion