What will it take to reverse the
current obesity epidemic? Two-thirds of adults and a third of children
in the USA are overweight or obese, government statistics show. Three
national experts weighed in on what it will take to solve the obesity
Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Communities must experiment, urge healthy choices
am very confident we can reverse the obesity epidemic. I don't think we
are going to treat our way out of the epidemic with pills or surgery.
"We will solve this by empowering communities and individuals to make the healthier choices the easier choices.
starts with a healthy pregnancy, breast-feeding, early childhood
healthy feeding. We are increasingly recognizing that early childhood
experiences are very important for health throughout life.
crucial that communities try different things to reduce the obesity
epidemic and that they rigorously study the impact of those efforts.
Forty years ago, we didn't know how to reduce the tobacco epidemic, but
because communities tried different things, we now have a strong list of
things that reduce tobacco use. We (the CDC) are helping dozens of
communities try things and rigorously evaluating their impact. The more
things we try, the more we'll know how we can support people.
are seeing signs of hope. We are seeing communities throughout the U.S.
that are seeing childhood obesity not only stabilize but decline. We are
not out of the woods, but there is real progress.
"We can reverse the epidemic by making healthier choices easier at every stage of life and every place."
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest:
Let's work on school foods, better restaurant options
"The solutions to addressing obesity will have to be as multifaceted
as is the problem itself. Some ways to reverse the epidemic:
school foods. This school year, schools are working hard to implement
new healthier school lunch standards. The new standards mean that school
lunches should have twice the fruits and vegetables, more whole grains,
less salt and unhealthy saturated and trans fats, and more appropriate
calorie levels. But these are tough changes - for schools and kids. We
need a major nationwide effort to support school food service to serve
healthier foods and encourage children to eat them. Another important
solution to addressing obesity is to get sugary drinks and unhealthy
snacks out of vending machines, school stores and other school venues.
up food marketing to kids. Studies show that food advertising and
marketing affects children's food preferences, choices, diets and
health. Thanks to some industry efforts, there has been a modest
reduction in unhealthy food ads. However, still over 80% of food
advertising to children is for foods of poor nutritional value. Food
companies should strengthen their nutrition standards and cover all
media used to market food to kids. Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and
other media companies should follow the lead of Disney and Ion Media and
limit unhealthy food advertising during its children's television
programming and on its websites.
"Improve options at restaurants.
Dozens of studies link eating out with obesity. Most of the time, we
should try to eat healthfully at restaurants. To help, Congress passed a
national law in 2010 requiring chain restaurants with 20 or more
outlets to list calories on menus and menu boards.
also could help by normal-sizing portions of foods and drinks, promoting
and reducing the prices of healthier options to make them more
competitive choices. Restaurants should have meals come automatically
with healthy sides and low-calorie beverages.
Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health:
Problem is one of misperception, not of willpower
"How do we turn this situation around? We didn't get here quickly or
easily. Don't let anyone tell you that there is just one simple
solution. At the National Institutes of Health, we have a vigorous
ongoing research program to test interventions and to determine what
works and what doesn't. Here are some of the lessons we have learned:
the individual, we need to overcome the perception that obesity is just
a matter of willpower - blaming the victim doesn't help. And for real
change, individuals need to get past the crash-diet mentality to a
lifestyle plan of healthy eating and increased physical activity.
People need tools that can assist them in making these changes,
including support groups and Web- or cellphone-based tools that allow
tracking of diet and exercise to provide feedback.
crucial - unless the whole family gets involved in a plan to adopt a
healthier lifestyle, it will be difficult for the individual to succeed.
are essential to success. Public education programs are critical.
Redesigning the built environment to promote active lifestyles and
access to healthy foods needs to be a priority; schools need to develop
healthier lunch programs and access to physical education.
that get engaged in providing incentives for a healthy lifestyle are
finding that this yields results in productivity and reduced health care
"National policies need to promote healthy eating and active lifestyles instead of working against them.
we have a weight problem. But don't despair, we can beat it. We have
faced other challenges as a nation, and we can overcome this one, but
we'll have to do it together."