Reversing a Super-Sized Epidemic: Policy Options For Dealing With Obesity

With nearly 130 million people obese or overweight, America is truly facing an epidemic. The proportion of Americans who are overweight or obese rose to 64 percent of the population in 2000 from 60 percent in 1990. Moreover, nearly 17 percent of preventable deaths in 2000 were attributable to poor eating habits and sedentary lifestyles, up from 14 percent in 1990, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Will trends worsen? What has the government done to help Americans manage this epidemic? What other public policy initiatives should be pursued? What is the private sector doing to prevent and treat obesity? Where does personal responsibility fit in?

To help examine these questions and others, the Alliance for Health Reform sponsored a June 7, 2004 briefing with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Panelists were: George Mensah, Centers for Disease Control; David Ludwig, Harvard Medical School; and Alison Kretser, Grocery Manufacturers of America. Sen. Bill Frist, Alliance vice chairman, moderated the discussion.