We Can’t Ignore This Problem Any Longer

August 03, 2009

By Mark Bishop, Deputy Director

On July 28, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius addressed the Weight of the Nation Conference where she repeated some alarming statistics but also laid out some real changes in government policy.

First, let's get the stats out of the way:

  • More than two thirds of American adults — and
    almost one out of every five American children — are obese or
    overweight
  • Obesity increases your risk of
    heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke
  • Obesity is the
    single biggest predictor of diabetes
  • Obesity costs our health system as much as $147
    billion a year

Back to the main story now, because this was a good speech.

Secretary
Sebelius outlined the administration's direction on prevention programs
for obesity. What's so interesting to me is that she's talking about
programs that, for years, people have relegated to issues of personal
responsibility. However, we now have an administration that recognizes
that so many of the chronic health issues we face as a society are
driven by broad policy directives. 

And as complex as obesity is as an issue, and as challenging as policy
development can be, Sebelius summarizes the administration's obesity
prevention plan in five main points:

  1. More
    nutritious meals in public schools, in child care
    centers, recreation centers, senior centers, and other government
    buildings — served at a price
    that people can afford 
  2. More healthy options in neighborhoods
  3. More physical education classes
    in which kids run around the whole time and fewer in which they wait around
    to use the same piece of equipment
  4. More investments in
    making cities safe for walking and biking 
  5. More investments in
    public transportation 

This is everything that we have talked about for years: Better food
in school. Better food for families. More physical activity. Better
access for biking and walking. Better transportation policy.

The
key is that we now all need to work to get support for the specific
policies that will make a difference on these issues. Doing so with the
support of the administration means we're at least in good company.

The first step: reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act. Join us.

And as Secretary Sebelius said, “reducing obesity — especially
for children — would be one of the biggest steps we could take towards
this better health future.  And if everyone in this room throws their
weight behind helping Americans lower theirs, I think we make it happen… We can’t ignore this problem any longer.”