The country has moved too slowly to address its top health crisis and must make changes — from taxing soda to creating incentives for fruit and vegetable farmers — to curb the obesity epidemic, according to a report released Tuesday by the Institute of Medicine.
About two-thirds of U.S. adults and one-third of children are overweight or obese. Obesity-related health care costs have reached an estimated $190 billion annually.
And today's children could be the first generation with shorter life spans than their parents because of the epidemic.
The institute, which advises the government, assembled a task force to assess previous public health efforts and offer new solutions. Their report, "Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation," outlines five recommendations:
• Make physical activity a part of daily living.
• Increase availability of healthy foods.
• Change food and beverage marketing.
• Focus on schools to prevent childhood obesity. • Encourage healthy workplaces.
Specific goals include requiring 60 minutes a day of physical activity in schools, drafting guidelines for food advertising to children, expanding workplace wellness programs, making healthy foods available in movie theaters and sports arenas, building more walking trails and increasing healthy options in restaurants.
A health advocacy group urged governments, the food and beverage industry, and schools to adopt the recommendations.
"The country has begun to address obesity, but we are still doing far too little given the tremendous burden it places on our health and health care costs," said Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Today, one-third of American adults are obese. By 2030, that will increase to 42 percent, according to projections released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The percentage of severely obese Americans, those with excess weight of 100 or more pounds, will double to 11 percent in the next 20 years.
Excess weight increases the odds of developing diabetes, heart disease, joint disorders and certain cancers.
Many Americans don't realize they qualify as obese, experts said. A 5-foot-5-inch woman who weighs 180 pounds — just 30 pounds overweight — meets the medical definition of obese.
The institute's report is the centerpiece of a major public health campaign involving government health agencies, nonprofit organizations and the HBO cable network. The multipronged approach is required to solve such a complex societal issue, organizers said.
Unlike the anti-tobacco campaign, which has contributed to a dramatic drop in smoking rates in the last 50 years, the anti-obesity message isn't as simple as "quit."
"You have to eat," said Dr. William Peck, director of the Center for Health Policy at Washington University. "The body is geared to protecting our weight."
Peck studies the impact of company-sponsored health programs on reducing health care costs and improving productivity. Some companies have created separate cafeterias for dieters, while others have started group fitness classes.
"Most companies have something," Peck said, "but the real question is does it really work, and is it sustainable?"
Peck cited Kansas City-based Cerner, a medical software company, as an employer with a strong wellness program. The company has an on-site clinic and pharmacy for its 10,500 employees. Workers can save money on their insurance premiums through incentives like participating in a 5K, quitting smoking or taking a certain number of steps daily.
The company has shaved millions of dollars off its health care costs and seen improved health in its employees, according to a spokeswoman.
Schools are another focus of the institute's report, which recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day for all students, healthier cafeteria foods and more nutrition classes.
The report's suggestion that sugar-sweetened beverages be taxed by the ounce, or by teaspoon of added sugar, has drawn the most backlash.
The Center for Consumer Freedom, which is funded by restaurants and the food industry, blasted the report as a move to take away Americans' food choices.
"Many public health zealots and legislators are quick to champion heavy-handed government policies, such as taxing soda and sweets," reads a statement from the group. "However, what's working for Americans is what always has, personal responsibility and consumer choice."
Personal responsibility isn't enough, said John Hoffman, executive producer of "The Weight of the Nation," a documentary series airing this month on HBO in conjunction with the Institute of Medicine report.
"People do need to eat less and move more, but we have to live in a world which enables that," Hoffman said. "Our lives have drastically changed, but our genetics haven't. Our ancient genes are living in this modern world of abundance."
Read more: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/fitness/obesity-battle-requires-more-movement-healthy-foods/article_3049b5f3-941b-5038-a16e-21d12940bb98.html#ixzz1uNJusuG6
One thing I have noticed, and it might be a false noticed, but there seems to be a high correlation of midnight workers to weight problems. It may be false, it might be that midnight workers eat more sugar (like sugared coffee to stay awake) or it might be that people with weight problems are more able to work midnight shifts.
And too, I might be wrong in what seems to be.