President Urged to Form "Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives Commission"
Physicians and Health Groups Ask for Bold Action to Reverse Obesity Epidemic
June 22, 2009
WASHINGTON—Some of the country's leading physicians, health organizations, and nutrition experts are asking President Barack Obama to create a Presidential Commission on Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives focused on combating obesity. In a letter to the President, the experts say that the broad and well-funded approach of the United Kingdom's anti-obesity strategy could serve as a model for a similar effort here.
The authors of the letter say that reducing obesity would be a powerful way of reducing health-care costs, and that a presidential commission would help stimulate and coordinate the activities of the Departments of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other agencies involved in food and health policy.
"The increased rates of obesity will negate many of our nation's investments in health-care and could actually condemn youths to shorter life spans than their parents," the letter states. "Each year, obesity causes tens of thousands of premature deaths and tens of billions of dollars in avoidable medical costs. Obesity also leads to heart-wrenching psychosocial problems, such as difficulty making friends, stigmatization, and discrimination in employment."
Signatories to the letter include the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which organized the effort, the American Diabetes Association, American Public Health Association, National Consumers League, Partnership for Prevention, Shape Up America, Trust for America's Health, United Fresh Produce Association, and a number of state-level organizations. Individuals on the letter include Kelly Brownell of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, Christopher Gardner of the Stanford Prevention Research Center, Lewis Landsberg of the Northwestern University Comprehensive Center on Obesity, and Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.
"Both the President and the First Lady have been enthusiastic proponents of healthy eating, gardening, and improving school foods, and the Administration is sending so many of the right signals with regard to appointments," said CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson. "Their challenge is to harness the new national excitement about nutrition and translate that into government policies that actually promote health. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has inherited a lot of policies that promote obesity and that need reversing."
Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancer. Obesity leads to about $95 billion a year in medical expenditures, half of which are paid through Medicare and Medicaid. Those costs are fueled by obesity rates that have increased in both children 6 to 19 and adults by 50 percent in the last 20 years.