Impacts of the Westernization of Food Preferences on Medical Costs in China
The dietary changes in China to include more meat, dairy, and processed foods, are commonly attributed in literature to income increases, urbanization, and the availability of western food products. As seen in other Asian countries, these new food habits may increase obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases among the Chinese people. These new health concerns will likely have economic consequences in terms of productivity losses and increased health care costs. This paper uses a Tobit model to analyze the influence of household demographics and food consumption on household medical costs in China. Results show that dietary choice has a definite impact on medical costs for the 800 households sampled. A nationwide dietary educational campaign in China may be useful in dampening the societal costs of dietary choice.
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