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"Epidemic Of Obesity" Target Of U.S. Health Agencies

There has been much news coverage recently about the epidemic of obesity in the U.S.

Obesity has more than doubled from 15 percent from 1976 to 1980 to 31 percent in 1999 to 2000. Sixty-five percent of adults ages 20 to 74 were overweight or obese in 1999 to 2000, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Even the U.S. Surgeon General noted the explosion in news coverage in a recent speech: "Awareness of obesity is growing, as the coverage becomes more and more high-profile, including the covers of TIME, Newsweek, USA Today, as well as numerous broadcast reports," said Vice Admiral Dr. Richard H. Carmona.

He noted that from October to December 1999, there were fewer than 50 articles in the American press about obesity and being overweight. "Contrast that with three years later — October to December 2002 — when there were more than 1,200 articles about obesity and being overweight in the same sample of American magazines and newspapers."

The total annual cost of obesity in the U.S. was $117 billion in 2000.

Obesity is the "fastest-growing cause of disease and death" in America today, the Surgeon General said.

  • Obesity has reached epidemic proportions. Nearly two out of three Americans are overweight or obese; that’s a 50 percent increase from just a decade ago.

  • Roughly more than 300,000 Americans die every year from illness related to obesity and being overweight. That’s nearly 1,000 people every day, one every 90 seconds.

  • Obesity is creeping into our children’s lives. More than 15 percent of Americans age 6 to 17 are overweight or obese. That’s more than eight million young people. A direct result of the obesity epidemic is that type 2 diabetes, previously unheard of in young people, is trickling into our schools — and left unchecked, it leads to serious illness and possible death.

  • And minorities are faring worse than the overall population: 23 percent of Hispanic- Americans are obese, and 30 percent of African-Americans are obese.

    Carmona noted that President Bush’s fiscal year 2004 budget proposal includes $125 million to prevent diabetes, obesity and asthma through community-based healthier lifestyles.

    Through the President’s Healthier U.S. Initiative introduced last year, Carmona said educational efforts are aimed at four essential principles:

  • Be Physically Active Every Day. Even modest physical exercise like walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can dramatically lower your risk of type 2 diabetes and help you in your fight against obesity.

  • Develop Good Eating Habits. Remember to eat at least five fruits and vegetables a day. And those working in corporate America are probably familiar with the "stretch goal." The stretch goal for fruits and vegetables is to eat nine a day.

  • Get Regular Check-ups and Preventive Health Screenings.

  • Avoid Risk. If you smoke, stop. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. And never, ever do drugs or drink to excess.

    Also, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was convening a public meeting this month to discuss issues within it’s jurisdiction related to obesity and nutrition. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the FDA’s role and responsibility in addressing the public health problem of obesity, promoting better consumer dietary and lifestyle choices that have the potential to improve the health and well-being of Americans, and how best to build a framework for messages to consumers about reducing obesity and achieving better nutrition.

    Among the national health objectives for the year 2010 is a reduction in the prevalence of obesity among adults to less than 15 percent.

    The CDC said research indicates that the situation is worsening rather than improving.

    A link to the CDC’s overweight and obesity Web pages is:

    Addresses: The Surgeon General, Office of the Surgeon General, 5600 Fishers Lane, Room 18-66, Rockville, MD 20857; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Highway NE, MS/K-24, Atlanta, GA 30341-3717; (770) 488-5820, fax: (770) 488-5473, Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857-0001; (888) 463-6332,

    Copyright 2004 Health Resources Publishing

  • © 2004 Health Resources Publishing