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New Weight Loss Plan for U.S. Obesity Crisis

Plan Would Cut Fast-Food Ads/Sales, Promote Activity and Healthy Foods
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 8, 2012 -- Obesity in America is a crisis that threatens national security -- and urgent action is needed, says the Institute of Medicine.

The IOM's plan: Totally change the way Americans approach exercise and nutrition.

How? By asking every single American to become involved, says Daniel R. Glickman, chair of the IOM committee that issued the 478-page plan. Glickman, former secretary of agriculture under President Bill Clinton, is executive director of congressional programs for the Aspen Institute.

"When you have a national epidemic of this size, it is in the hands of every individual to make this happen," Glickman said today in a presentation to the CDC's Weight of the Nation Conference in Washington, D.C.

"When people understand the consequences of not taking action, they will understand," IOM committee member Christina Economos, PhD, of Tufts University, said at the meeting. "This will require bold actions from all sections of society."

The IOM report "issues a blunt, strong challenge that the obesity threat is imminent and enduring to our children and to our nation. It holds everyone accountable," said James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president for health at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which funded the IOM study.

Part of this "threat" is economic. The estimated cost of obesity is $190 billion a year in the U.S., Marks said at a news teleconference. And part of the threat is that the two-thirds of Americans who are overweight or obese are at risk of diabetes, cancer, and early death.

What can we do about it? The IOM report spells out a detailed, extensive, and expensive plan. The plan calls for individual, community, school, and workplace action. It also calls on government to confront entrenched interests in revising agricultural subsidies, restricting the advertising of sugared beverages and fast foods, and regulating restaurants that offer calorie-dense foods to children.

"These things all must be done and done now if we are going to roll back this problem," Glickman said. "The question used to be, 'Can we reverse the obesity epidemic?' The question now is, 'Will we?'"

The IOM Obesity Plan

On the face of it, the IOM plan is simple. There are five main goals:

  1. Make physical activity an integral and routine part of life.
  2. Create food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice.
  3. Transform messages about physical activity and nutrition.
  4. Expand the roles of health care providers, insurers, and employers.
  5. Make schools a national focal point.

As usual, the devil is in the details. For each of these broad goals there are distinct proposals. And as committee members made clear, it's an integrated plan. It won't work if policy makers act only on one part and not on others.

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