The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

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

President Urged to Form 'Healthy Weights, Healthy Lives Commission'

Physicians and Health Groups Ask for Bold Action to Reverse Obesity Epidemic


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."

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.

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.