HHS Secretary Thompson Addresses Summit on Obesity in the United States
HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson on Wednesday opened a summit on obesity in Williamsburg, Va., by urging people to take personal responsibility for their health and vowing to continue encouraging the food industry to make healthful changes, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. More than 600 scientists, educators, nutritionists, researchers and food industry representatives are scheduled to take part in the three-day summit, which will examine increasing rates of overweight and obese people in the United States and abroad. The summit is sponsored by Time magazine, ABC News and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In his remarks, Thompson said, "We have to continue to work hard to spread the gospel of personal responsibility. Each of us has to take responsibility for making the right choices when it comes to diet and exercise." Thompson also praised the food industry for making changes in the past year that "demonstrat[e] that our message is resonating in boardrooms throughout the food industry." Also at the summit on Wednesday, Dr. Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina schools of public health and medicine, presented highlights of an international study showing that the rate of obesity is growing rapidly in rural and low-income regions that traditionally have not had the weight problems that more affluent communities have had (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/3).
The June 7 issue of Time is dedicated to obesity in the United States. Summaries of related articles are provided below.
- "How We Grew So Big": The article examines the origins of obesity, which "may be rooted deep within our genes." Although technology has "almost completely removed" physical exercise from daily life while increasing the ability to provide inexpensive, "absurdly convenient" and "good-tasting food that is packed with calories," evolutionary eating habits also contribute to the current obesity epidemic, Time reports (Lemonick, Time, 6/7).
- "Why We Eat": The article examines the social, biological and psychological factors that influence eating habits. According to Time, some nutritionists say that the "death of the official mealtime" has influenced obesity, while some scientists say that the biological factors that influence eating habits have led to obesity in a culture that provides an "abundance and easy availability of food." In addition, some researchers have found that the same psychological factors influence people's inclination to overeat or develop eating disorders (Kluger et al., Time, 6/7).
- "The Obesity Warriors": A group of scientists, researchers and clinicians who have concluded that environmental forces play a significant role in the rise of obesity in the United States is profiled in the article. In their "crusade to change the way Americans live," such activists have called for improved dietary conditions in public schools; more exercise within communities; and a "greater role" for the federal government in addressing obesity, including banning junk-food ads targeted at children, Time reports (Wallis, Time, 6/7).
- "Pills in the Pipeline": There is a "pharmaceutical feeding frenzy" to develop weight-loss drugs, Time reports. Because the causes of weight gain vary among people, finding such drugs will not be easy. Scientists are currently developing drugs that target various "pathways," including drugs that focus on the neurotransmitters that trigger hunger and those that target fat cells directly, according to Time (Park, Time, 6/7).
- "The Walking Cure": The article examines the "active-living movement" to try to make communities more conducive to walking rather than driving because of an established link between "sprawling suburbs and spreading waistlines" (Lacayo, Time, 6/7).
- "Chain Reaction": The article examines the food industry's response to growing public concern about obesity. Restaurants and food manufacturers have begun to promote exercise, print nutrition information on menus, and reduce portion sizes and trans fat content to appeal to health conscious consumers (Kadlec, Time, 6/7).
- "Word to Parents": The article outlines suggestions for parents to discuss weight loss with obese children without making them "miserable," "resentful," and "more obsessed with eating," Time reports (Wallis, Time, 6/7).
- "The Secrets of Their Success": The article profiles the weight-loss methods of several formerly obese people (Gorman, Time, 6/7).
- "Are You Responsible for Your Own Weight?": Radley Balko of the Cato Institute writes that the best way to fight obesity is to "foster a personal sense of responsibility for our health and well-being." Balko concludes, "We're likely to make better decisions when someone else isn't paying for the consequences" (Balko, Time, 6/7). In an accompanying counterpoint piece, Kelly Brownell, chair of the psychology department at Yale University, and Marion Nestle, professor of public health at New York University, write that the personal responsibility argument about obesity "ignores biology" and "is not helpful," adding that, "Government should be doing everything it can to create conditions that lead to healthy eating" (Brownell/Nestle, Time, 6/7).
ABCNews broadcast several special reports on obesity May 30 through June 4. Complete ABCNews coverage, including links to special broadcast reports and video in RealPlayer, previous reports on obesity and interactive coverage, is available online. The following are highlights from the special coverage.
- "A Different Kind of Education: How One Woman Made a Difference" (McKenzie, "World News Tonight," 6/3).
- "It's Hard to be Fat: The Psychological Impact of Being Overweight" (Stark, "World News Tonight," 6/3).
- "Headed for Heart Attacks? Doctors Fear Obese Teens May Not Outlive Their Parents" (Johnson, "Good Morning America," 6/3).
- "Fat and Fit: Can You Be Overweight and Still Be Healthy?" (Johnson, "World News Tonight, 6/2).
- "Success Stories: National Study Finds Winning Weight-Loss Strategies" (Johnson, "Good Morning America," 6/2).
- "Critical Condition: America's Obesity Crisis" (Martin, "Nightline," 6/2).
- "Stealth Sugars: Hidden Calories From Corn Contribute to Obesity" (Jennings, "World News Tonight," 6/1).
- "Big Business: Products for the Obese Can Be Added Cost for Some, Business Opportunity for Others" (Jamieson, "World News Tonight," 6/1).
- "Walking Weapon: Kids in Cincinnati School Battle Obesity with 'Walking School Bus'" ("Good Morning America," 6/1).
- "The Obesity Wars: Fat Fighters on the Front Line" (Potter, "World News Tonight," 6/1).
- "Gridlock Lifestyle: Suburban Life May Be Hazardous To Your Waistline" (von Fremd, "World News Tonight," 5/31).
- "America's Obesity Crisis: Americans Are Concerned About Weight but Few Take Action" (Langer, 5/30).
- KQED's "Forum" on Thursday in the first hour of the program hosted a roundtable discussion on the global obesity epidemic and policymakers' response to the crisis. Guests on the program included acting FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford; Leslie Mikkelsen, managing director of the Prevention Institute, coordinator of the Strategic Alliance for Healthy Food and Activity Environments and a registered dietician; Marion Nestle, professor and chair of the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University and author of several books on food; and James Tillotson, professor of food policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 6/3). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.