Message From the Secretary
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The 20th century saw remarkable and unprecedented improvements in the lives of the people of our country. We saw the infant mortality rate plummet and life expectancy increase by 30 years. Deaths from infectious diseases dropped tremendously, and improvements in medical care allowed many individuals with chronic disease to lead longer, fuller lives. Yet despite these and other successes, complex new health challenges continue to confront us.
Overweight and obesity are among the most important of these new health challenges. Our modern environment has allowed these conditions to increase at alarming rates and become highly pressing health problems for our Nation. At the same time, by confronting these conditions, we have tremendous opportunities to prevent the unnecessary disease and disability that they portend for our future.
As we move to acknowledge and understand these conditions, it is important to remember that they are as sensitive for each of us as they are challenging and important for our country’s health. This is truly the time for a Call To Action, because each one of us as an individual must understand that we are called upon to act, just as our institutions are called upon to consider how they can help confront this new epidemic.
This Surgeon General’s Call To Action represents an opportunity for individuals to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves and their families. It encourages health care providers to help individuals prevent and treat these conditions. At a broader level, it prompts all communities to make changes that promote healthful eating and adequate physical activity. It calls for scientists to pursue new research. Above all, it calls upon individuals, families, communities, schools, worksites, organizations, and the media to work together to build solutions that will bring better health to everyone in this country.
I wholeheartedly support The Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, and I urge all of us to work together to achieve its ambitious and essential vision.
Like many across the Nation, the Department of Health and Human Services was reminded how small the world is when, on September 11, we lost one of our own, Paul Ambrose, M.D., M.P.H. He had just finished the final edits on the Call To Action and was on his way to a conference in California on childhood obesity when tragedy struck. Paul was a man of great compassion and heart, committed to helping people in rural America obtain better health care and improving prevention measures for all Americans. He cared deeply for the issues he worked on but even more for the people affected. While we will miss Paul’s energy and dedication, we will miss his humanity even more.
Tommy G. Thompson