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Surgeon General Launches Effort to Develop Action Plan to Combat Overweight, Obesity

January 8, 2001
Contact: Damon Thompson
(301) 443-4000

Surgeon General David Satcher today announced a year-long effort to develop a national action plan for reducing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States.  Satcher said the process would be inclusive and collaborative, and would include open public comment periods, listening sessions, federal and non-federal dialogue, interactive workshops and the formation of working groups to implement strategies.

"The prevalence of overweight and obesity has nearly doubled among children and adolescents since 1980,"  Satcher told public health and industry leaders attending an international nutrition conference.  "It is also increasing in both genders and among all population groups of adults.  We want to establish strategies and set priorities so that we can successfully implement obesity prevention efforts that focus on the family and community, schools, work sites, the health care delivery system, and the media."

The Surgeon General last month held a "listening session" on overweight and obesity at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland.  At the meeting — entitled Toward a National Action Plan on Overweight and Obesity:  The Surgeon General's Initiative — five panels of experts presented their views on priorities for obesity prevention efforts.  Co-sponsors of the event included the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Office of Public Health and Science.

"The participants in this meeting brought fresh and exciting ideas to the table," said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health Randolph F. Wykoff.   "Overweight and obesity represent one of ten leading health indicators included in Healthy People 2010, the nation's health objectives for the next decade.  With the continuing input from these participants and the groups they represent, we stand to have a real impact on an important  public health problem."

Several follow-up events will continue efforts to develop a national action plan.  An invitational, interactive workshop to further develop strategies and stimulate collaboration is in the planning stages.  A meeting of federal agencies will begin dialogue to develop a coordinated federal approach.  Further opportunity for public input in development of the plan is envisioned during 2001.

Overweight and obesity substantially raise the risk of illness from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, gallbladder disease, arthritis, sleep disturbances and problems breathing, and certain types of cancers.  On average, higher body weights are associated with higher death rates. 

The number of overweight children, adolescents, and adults has risen over the past four decades.  Total costs (medical cost and lost productivity) attributable to obesity alone amounted to an estimated $99 billion in 1995.  During 1988-94, 11 percent of children and adolescents aged 6 to 19 years were overweight or obese.  During the same years, 23 percent of adults aged 20 years and older were considered obese. (requires Real Player).

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