Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Solving Obesity in America

Obesity costs about $117 billion in health care and related costs to families, health care centers and the government each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over thirty years, rates of obesity have doubled in adults and tripled in children, and about two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese.

And though Americans are in trouble, a large European study supports the claim that obesity is dangerous for everyone. The study, spanning decades recently published in this week's British Medical Journal, found that young men who were overweight at age 18 were as likely to die by 60 as light smokers, and obese teens, like heavy smokers, were at double the risk of dying early.

Clearly bold action to stem the obesity epidemic is necessary. In America, our overweight children may be the first generation to have shorter life spans than their parents. On January 9, 2009 the nation's most prominent health and medical leaders sent this message to then President-elect Barack Obama.

"The obesity epidemic is harming Americans' health just as global warming is harming the planet," these experts wrote in a letter to the next President. This requires a coordinated effort of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Transportation and other government officials.

This week President Obama has organized a health summit to discuss this and the other serious issues of our time. Will we have universal coverage? In a recent poll 49% of Americans said they would pay higher taxes for universal care. (I quess it had to get this bad before people would pay up.) In this weeks health summit Obama announced two appointments. Kansas governor Kathleen Sebelius has been nominated as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. This is a start and now we need to focus on services for all and prevention. The numerous possible approaches to reversing the obesity epidemic are well known. The executive director of CSPI, Michael F. Jacobson, explains, "What has been missing, particularly by officials in the Bush Administration, is the commitment to actually tackle the problem." Perhaps this is at hand.

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