July 31, 2008

Life and Health

A Vision for the Future: The Obesity Epidemic

Alice Abler

In 2001, the United States released the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. The Call to Action included a section titled “A Vision for the Future.” Now the future is here, and the suggestions found in this report continue to be promoted in current health news around the world. They remain timeless recommendations for each of us as individuals as well for the greater community no matter where we live.

Part of the section of the Call to Action titled “A Vision for the Future” follows:

Overweight and Obesity: A Vision for the Future 

The Surgeon General identifies the following . . . activities as national priorities for immediate action. Individuals, families, communities, schools, worksites, health care, media, industry, organizations, and government must determine their role and take action to prevent and decrease overweight and obesity.

Communication 

The Nation must take an informed, sensitive approach to communicate with and educate the American people about health issues related to overweight and obesity. Everyone must work together to:
  • Change the perception of overweight and obesity at all ages. The primary concern should be one of health and not appearance.
  • Educate all expectant parents about the many benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfed infants may be less likely to become overweight as they grow older. Mothers who breastfeed may return to pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.
  • Educate health care providers and health profession students in the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity across the lifespan.
  • Provide culturally appropriate education in schools and communities about healthy eating habits and regular physical activity, based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for people of all ages. Emphasize the consumer’s role in making wise food and physical activity choices.

Action

The Nation must take action to assist Americans in balancing healthful eating with regular physical activity. Individuals and groups across all settings must work in concert to:
  • Ensure daily, quality physical education in all school grades. Such education can develop the knowledge, attitudes, skills, behaviors, and confidence needed to be physically active for life.
  • Reduce time spent watching television and in other similar sedentary behaviors.
  • Build physical activity into regular routines and playtime for children and their families. Ensure that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Children should aim for at least 60 minutes.
  • Create more opportunities for physical activity at worksites. Encourage all employers to make facilities and opportunities available for physical activity for all employees.
  • Make community facilities available and accessible for physical activity for all people, including the elderly.
  • Promote healthier food choices, including at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, and reasonable portion sizes at home, in schools, at worksites, and in communities.
  • Ensure that schools provide healthful foods and beverages on school campuses and at school events by: 
  • Adopting policies specifying that all foods and beverages available at school contribute toward eating patterns that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
  • Providing more food options that are low in fat, calories, and added sugars such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
  • Reducing access to foods high in fat, calories, and added sugars and to excessive portion sizes.
  • Create mechanisms for appropriate reimbursement for the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity.

 

Most of these suggestions from the 2001 “A Vision for the Future” are timeless. The Surgeon General recommended these actions to be implemented by individuals and groups working together toward a common goal of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. We have made some progress, yet successful eradication of the global obesity epidemic remains elusive.

Worldwide, we continue to gain weight. These practical recommendations continue to apply to the issues that emerge from current health news around the world, even more today than in 2001.