Report Gives U.S. Low Marks for High Obesity Rates

July 23, 2009

By Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

A new report, F as in Fat, was recently released by the Trust for America’s Health in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In addition to sharing alarming statistics on obesity in both adults and children, the report assesses state and federal policies that address the nation’s growing obesity epidemic.

It also provides recommendations for further action: I was especially interested to see that the report points out the
importance of the school environment in addressing childhood obesity.

Obesity prevention should be a high priority in health reform, the report suggests. Recommendations for health reform include :

  • Increasing the number of programs available in communities, schools, and
    childcare settings that help make nutritious foods more affordable and
    accessible and provide safe and healthy places for people to engage in
    physical activity;
  • Ensuring that every adult and child has access to coverage for preventive medical services, including nutrition and obesity counseling and screening for obesity-related diseases, such as type 2 diabetes; and
  • Reducing Medicare expenditures by promoting proven programs that improve nutrition and increase physical activity among adults ages 55 to 64.

The report also calls for a national strategy to combat obesity, with schools very much in focus. It recommends policies that:

  • Provide healthy foods and beverages to students at schools;
  • Increase the availability of affordable healthy foods in all communities;
  • Increase the frequency, intensity, and duration of physical activity at school;
  • Improve access to safe and healthy places to live, work, learn, and play;
  • Limit screen time; and
  • Encourage employers to provide workplace wellness programs.

On their own, the statistics shared in this report are alarming: nearly two-thirds of adult Americans are overweight or obese and nearly one-third of children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

Among adults, obesity rates continued to rise. If there is some good news here though, it is that researchers at the CDC report that there was no statistically significant change in the number of children and adolescents (aged 2 to 19) who were overweight or obese between 2003-2004 and 2005-2006.

This is the first time the rates have not increased in more than 25 years.

To me, this highlights the importance of the work already underway to prevent childhood obesity, and speaks to the need for increased efforts to reduce the rates that are already staggeringly high.

As this report points out, creating a healthy school environment is a critical part of the solution to the complicated problem that our nation faces in addressing the obesity epidemic. As lawmakers roll up their sleeves on health care reform, we urge them to take these recommendations to heart.