The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Phone: 202-332-9110

Health Experts Urge President-Elect Obama to Take Bold Action to Reverse Obesity Epidemic

Hundreds of Thousands of Lives, Tens of Billions of Dollars at Stake, Experts Say


Bold action is needed to stem the obesity epidemic, or else today's
children might be the first generation of Americans ever to lead
shorter life spans than their parents. That's the urgent message delivered today
to President-elect Barack Obama by 49 of the nation's most prominent
health and medical organizations and 44 prominent physicians and
nutrition experts. The obesity epidemic is harming Americans' health
just as global warming is harming the planet, the experts write in a
letter to the next President, and requires the coordinated effort of
the Departments of Health and Human Services, Agriculture,
Transportation and other government officials.

"What is lacking is not well-conceived ideas for policies and
programs, but a national commitment to wage a comprehensive campaign to
prevent and reverse overweight and obesity, a war that should begin in
the womb and infancy, extend to schools, then include workplaces,
doctors' offices, and the general community," the letter states.

Organized by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest, the groups pressing President-elect Obama to take vigorous action include the American Heart Association, American Public Health Association, Shape Up America!, The Obesity Society, Partnership for Prevention and Trust for America's Health.
Individuals signing the letter include George L. Blackburn of Harvard
Medical School, Carlos A. Camargo of Massachusetts General Hospital and
Harvard Medical School, Kenneth H. Cooper of the Cooper Aerobics
Center/Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Marion Nestle of New York University,
and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health.

In a confirmation hearing yesterday before the Senate Health,
Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, former Senator Tom Daschle,
the Secretary-designate for HHS, spoke in support of several policies
advocated by CSPI and other health advocates. "We aren't going to
address obesity and prevention and wellness unless we make better
school lunches, and unless we take the junk food out of schools, and
unless we put physical exercise back into the school curriculum,"
Daschle said.

"The harms caused by obesity are well-known and considerable:
hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer, arthritis and
many others," the letter to President-elect Obama continued. "Together
those maladies contribute each year to as many as several hundred
thousand deaths and tens of billions of dollars in medical and other

"The numerous possible approaches to reversing the obesity
epidemic are well known, so they're not itemized in the letter," said
CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, a signatory to the letter.
"What has been missing, particularly by officials in the Bush
Administration, is the commitment to actually tackle the problem."

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

Since 1971, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been a strong advocate for nutrition and health, food safety, alcohol policy, and sound science.