Policy Solutions with Measurable Results
The toll is shocking: two thirds of adults and nearly one in three children struggle with obesity. In 1996, no state had an adult obesity rate above 20 percent. In 2008, 49 states did.
Obesity is now one of the country’s costliest medical conditions. Taxpayers, governments and businesses spend billions on obesity-related conditions each year, including an estimated $168 billion in medical costs.
The solution to this epidemic sounds simple, but obesity is a complex disease, reflecting changes in our lifestyles, schools, families, businesses, communities and even the way we interact with the health care system. As with other pressing U.S. public health challenges – like encouraging Americans to smoke less and use seat belts – public policies are needed to create the environment for change.
With this in mind, the Campaign to End Obesity Action Fund – representing concerned leaders from industry, academia, public health and associations – encourages federal policies to reverse the obesity epidemic and improve Americans’ health.
Prevent and treat obesity by screening BMI and body composition in adults and children
Body mass index (BMI), a simple calculation of weight and height, is the most widely accepted measurement of an individual’s body composition. Like blood pressure and cholesterol readings, BMI should be a health “vital sign.” Yet BMI is not monitored for most participants in federal health programs; that creates a barrier to the needed first step in preventing or reversing obesity – knowing whether we are at a healthy weight. The Campaign urges BMI and body composition screening through all available measures. Find your BMI here. For children and teens, please consult the CDC’s online calculator.
Align federal food programs with nutritional guidelines and make healthy foods affordable and accessible to those most at risk
Our schools and federal food programs must not only be models of good nutrition, but – given the extent to which they are a primary food source for so many Americans – they must facilitate healthy eating. For many reasons, economically disadvantaged Americans are at particular risk for overweight and obesity. Federal food programs should improve the access and affordability of healthy foods in communities of need, ensure that all foods sold at schools meet the Institute of Medicine’s nutritional guidelines. Education programs should also be extended to help those most at risk make healthy, culturally relevant food choices.
Coordinate the federal response to reversing the obesity epidemic
Coordinated federal action will maximize the impact of anti-obesity policies. The Campaign supports the establishment of a United States council on overweight-obesity prevention and an Executive Branch coordinating office to oversee and streamline all federal obesity-related initiatives. We urge, moreover, that these efforts continue to be enhanced with a focused, yet significant public awareness campaign about obesity’s risks, prevention and treatment. Further, the Executive Branch should demonstrate its commitment to Americans’ healthy weight by mandating that executive actions be reviewed for whether they help to reverse the nation’s obesity epidemic.
Make it easier for Americans to be active and fit
When people don’t have safe places to move or play, they’re less likely to be active. Indeed, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people who live in easy walking distance of shops and businesses lower their risk of obesity by 35 percent. Federal policies should continue to fund strategies to improve the nation’s infrastructure in ways that encourage physical activity, and to support measures that promote physical fitness for children and adults.
Support incentives for workplace wellness
The CDC estimates that medical expenses for obese employees are 42 percent higher than for a person with a healthy weight. Many employers identify employee fitness as an economic imperative: to remain competitive, they need healthy, productive workers. Federal policies can support workplace health by offering tax incentives for employee wellness measures, for companies large and small.
Increase federal support for obesity research
Obesity increases the incidence of more than 60 chronic diseases and triggers unsustainable medical costs. Further research will help federal and state policymakers address the epidemic by identifying new evidence-based strategies for obesity prevention and treatment.