Friday, March 5, 2010
US Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin told Congress yesterday that obesity “may dramatically impact the quality and longevity of life for an entire generation of children.” In forceful testimony before the Senate Committee on Health, Education and Pensions, Benjamin noted “the prevalence of obesity has increased dramatically in the United States, tripling among children and doubling among adults. Today, two-thirds of adults and nearly one in three children are overweight or obese.” She explained that from 1980 to 2008, obesity among adults rose from 13.4% to 34.3% and among children, rates rose from 5% to 17%.
The solution isn’t easy or quick but it is obvious and encouraging that the Obama administration is engaged. The Surgeon General explained that last month the President established a new Task Force on Childhood Obesity and charged it with reviewing all Federal programs dealing with child nutrition and physical activity and developing a national action plan. The National Action Plan is scheduled to be completed by May 9. Perhaps no less important, is the very visible role and support to this effort being given by First Lady Michelle Obama and her commitment to end “childhood obesity within a generation.” Her “Let’s Move” campaign is being supported by an innovative series of new web-based tools including the next generation Food Pyramid and USDA’s Food Environmental Atlas. These projects will help families make healthier food and physical activity choices and better understand national and local trends on food decisions.
Benjamin concluded her testimony with a simple but powerful message. “Instead of bombarding people with lists of what not to do, we need to empower them with what to do to promote health. Healthy eating and physical activity should be something all Americans want to do, not something they feel they have to do. We need to encourage people to take up activities that they enjoy, like swimming, dancing, or biking. We need to show them how healthy foods can be affordable, accessible, and delicious.”
Sage advice from the nation’s Family Doctor.
Director, Government Affairs, Partnership for Prevention