Curbing obesity epidemic key to health-care reform

Obesity and health reform
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Curbing the obesity epidemic should be key to health-care reform. That is the message that two former U.S. Surgeons General David Satcher, MD, PhD, and Richard Carmona, MD, took the anti-obesity message to Capitol Hill in hopes of swaying policymakers in addressing the obesity epidemic in our nation as part of federal health care reform.

"At this critical juncture where we're dealing with health-care transformation, we want to make sure that the federal government and our elected leaders recognize the importance of including approaches to obesity that are evidence-based and proven within their legislative strategy," former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona told reporters during a media briefing.

"We need to move toward a system which supports health promotion, disease prevention, early detection, and, we think, universal access to care," Satcher told reporters. “Obesity, is a "major threat to the future health of the American people."

Carmona said 75% of healthcare dollars are spent treating chronic diseases, most of them preventable "and all of them accelerated or driven by obesity."

Obesity, he said, becomes an "insidious killer" that creates an economic and disease burden.

Dr. David Satcher, whose 2001 report on obesity documented the obesity issue as an "epidemic," stressed the need to invest in disease prevention, particularly for the health of the nation's youth. "We are in essence addicting our children to sedentary lifestyles; we're addicting them to high-salt, high-sweet, high-fat diets," he said, "and then we pay for it later on when they come to us with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes."

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Both doctors are now involved with the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent Obesity Alliance (STOP), which describes itself as a "collaboration" of organizations united against obesity. STOP announced four "targeted recommendations" aimed at bringing discussions about obesity to healthcare reform.

• "Standardized and effective" clinical interventions -- supported by the evidence-based guidelines of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute -- that acknowledge health benefits of a 5% to 10% sustained weight loss

• More use of clinical preventive services to monitor health and help prevent weight gain

• Community programs -- again based on evidence -- that support healthy living, focus on health literacy, address health disparities, and "represent a significant investment in population-based prevention of obesity"

• More study to improve quality of care, bolster understanding of what works, and translate research into practice

“Obesity significantly increases the risk of having more than 20 different chronic diseases that cause tremendous suffering and early death throughout our nation," said Carmona. "Health leaders and scientists, including Surgeon General Satcher and myself, as well as people from all sectors of society, are urging Congress to act now to include prevention and treatment of obesity in health reform." Obesity has become a national killer and many feel that curbing the obesity epidemic should be a key factor to health-care reform.

Reference
The Obesity Society
Centers for Disease Control
USA Today

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