Posted on 09/14/2009 at 11:56:20 AM by Student BloggerBy: Bobban S.
Truly, I am neither an obesity researcher nor a public health policy expert. But I do read material on this issue every now and then, and recently, I asked myself, why? United States is blessed with enormous research resources, facilities and funding, but still why can't we address the issue of obesity?
Obesity is a mad horse, a horse without any bridles (legislations or policies!) raging through society.
Obesity: Fact check
- Health and Human Services (HHS) has more than 300 obesity-related programs nationwide and aims to reduce obesity rates to 15% in every state before 2010. But the trend is going the other way. In 2006, except Colorado no state had an obesity rate below 20%.
- In 1980, the average US obesity rate was 15%; now the average is 34.3%, and another 32.7% are overweight. The obesity rates exhibited by children above the age of six and adults have climbed by 50% in the past 20 years.
- Childhood overweight and obesity prevalence rates in the United States are steadily increasing with an annual cost of ~ 100 billion a year.
- Between 1971 and 2003, rates of overweight for 2-5 year-olds have risen from 5% to 14%; for 6-11 year-olds, from 4% to 19%, and for 12-19 year-olds, from 6% to 17%. The rates of childhood obesity are higher in low-income and ethnic minority populations.
- More than 60 bills (Childhood Obesity Reduction Act, Improved Nutrition and Physical Activity Act, Commonsense Consumption Act of 2003, Obesity Prevention Act, to name a few) are pending in Congress that address at least one provision for obesity. None have even been reported from committees, let alone debated by the full House or Senate.
- The National Obesity Prevention Act of 2008 was the latest one which was developed to respond to the recommendations of public health experts and organizations. Because this bill was introduced in a previous session of Congress, no more action can occur on it and this bill never became law! , (H.R. 7179, Govtrack.US).
- Factors positively influencing the passage of childhood obesity prevention legislation included national media exposure, introduction of the policy by senior legislators, and gaining the support of key players including parents, physicians, and schools. Major barriers included powerful lobbyists of companies that produce unhealthy foods and misconceptions about legislating foods at schools (Dodson et al. 2009).
- The vicious nexus among poverty, obesity, food stamp programs and basic school meal programs is a controversial issue which is widely debated but still largely a grey area. But just a side by side comparison of obesity and poverty map in US seems to say a lot.
A new verve and momentum to prevent this dire medical problem by medical care, research and community approach needs solid policy initiatives (not just initiatives! But real implementation). Hope the new leadership under President Barack Obama makes meaningful measures and policies to curb this issue as promised. Already Federal stimulus bill earmarked $650 million to support prevention and wellness activities targeting obesity, smoking, and other risk factors for chronic diseases.
Further, a major provision on much awaiting Obama's health care reform bill is to “invest in public health measures to prevention and wellness” to reduce cost drivers in our system—such as obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking. However, recent news said that health care reform will be discussed at the next session of Congress (after August) which might slow down this area which needs immediate action. Everyday thousands are stepping into childhood, and even thousands are initiating bad-food habits. So the earlier we can get hold of this mad horse, the better it will be for the society, our children and for our coming generations.
Let's go beyond blogging, an E- campaign? A campaign to prioritize obesity research and community initiatives to be of immediate effect, as a first step……