At the end of July, the Spectrum team attended the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Weight of the Nation conference, which featured public health experts, medical personnel, and policymakers, coming together to discuss obesity in America. The conference – the CDC’s first on the topic – was a direct response to the fast growing epidemic of obesity in America. For example:
- More than 60 percent of American adults and 30 percent of American children are overweight and obese, which can lead to many chronic health risks, including diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, and
- The United States ranks last among nations in reducing the number of preventable deaths resulting from obesity-related chronic illnesses (CDC).
The obesity epidemic is driving policy action and creative solutions. For example, the bipartisan LEAN Act of 2009 is designed to help curb the obesity epidemic by introducing “nutrition labeling of food offered for sale in food service establishments.”
The LEAN Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Carpenter (D-DE), calls for accessible, reliable nutrition information to be displayed in chain restaurants and is a stepping stone on a long path to improving the health of Americans. A report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation cited the consequences of dining out, which include “higher intakes of fat, sodium, and soft drinks, and lower intakes of nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables.” The report states that half of Americans’ diets consist of food consumed outside the home.
The goal of The LEAN Act is to reduce caloric intake among restaurant patrons by exposing them to the contents of what they are eating. Because most people do not know the nutritional value (or lack thereof) in food they eat when dining out, awareness is a key step towards healthy eating.
The LEAN Act is only one potential intervention to help curb the obesity epidemic in America. This legislation works on the individual level in order to increase access to information.
Access is a key piece of obesity prevention and works beyond the individual level. To correspond with Weight of the Nation, CDC released 24 interventions designed to increase access on the community and policy levels. The “Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States” aims to increase access to healthy locations, and make healthy lifestyle choices easier by reducing costs.
- Increase availability of healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues
- Improve availability of affordable healthier food and beverage choices in public service venues
- Improve access to outdoor recreational facilities
The road to a healthier America requires multiple interventions focused on increasing both access to information, location and reduced cost.
Evan Goodman, Public Affairs