The Institute of Medicine (IOM) of The National Academy has just released its report titled Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.
According to the IOM report, two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. This affects people living in all geographies and among majority and minority populations. Yet, obesity risks are disproportionately higher among minority, low-income, less educated and rural populations. Illnesses related to obesity are estimated to cost $190.2 billion ever year.
How did we get here? The problem has been coming on for decades. Our physical activity level is dramatically different from our ancestors. Physical labor was the norm and it’s been largely replaced by office work. When we can, we hire others to do physical chores at home, such as housecleaning and lawn mowing. We drive everywhere. We’ve become a nation of roads, not sidewalks. Our food is different, with a heavy emphasis and availability of cheap, easy to prepare, overly-processed food that is laden with ‘bad’ calories. Kids and adults spend copious amounts of free time in sedentary activities, like lounging in front of televisions and computers.
IOM recommendations include making physical activity the norm instead of the exception; creating more healthy food and drink environments; better messaging around food and exercise; better integration of health care providers, employers and insurers in making the nation healthier; and, an emphasis on the role of schools in behavior change.
Although laudable in scope, we’ve heard these ideas before. Success will require solid commitments and resources, both of which have been lacking thus far. This is particularly true in many of our nation’s schools, where exercise is hard to come by and there aren’t sufficient resources available for school meal programs to purchase the healthy foods kids should be consuming.
Let’s hope that the nation’s policymakers make the fight against obesity a real priority, fast. Otherwise, it could take longer to get out of this epidemic than it took to get in.
As a side note, HBO, who worked closely with the IOM, will air The Weight of the Nation on May 14 and 15. To learn more about this documentary, go here.
HBO will be making this available on its website for non-subscribers. A companion book can be purchased here and at Amazon.
-Jaime Venditti, 5/10/12