Surgeon General Warns of Obesity Epidemic


The United States is facing an obesity epidemic. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher warned that the rising numbers of overweight Americans (61 percent of adults are at unhealthy body fat levels with 34 percent being overweight and 27 percent being obese) is creating unprecedented health problems. According to Satcher, as many as 300,000 deaths in the United States each year are associated with obesity, fast approaching the sobering statistics of 400,000 smoking-related deaths annually. In the year 2000 alone, health care related costs for obesity totaled $117 billion. Losing just a small amount of weight in most cases can reduce those costs. According to research, losing just 15 pounds can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by almost 60 percent. In response to the nation's rising obesity levels, Satcher issued a report asking the community to take part in a plan to help reduce the nation's collective weight.

The Surgeon General's National Action Plan includes the following call to action amongst schools, businesses, families, and more:

  • Raise consumer awareness of the health effects of being overweight
  • Build awareness among school teachers, coaches, food service staff and nurses about the effects of a proper diet and exercise habits in controlling weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Educate the health care community about the effects of a proper diet and exercise habits in controlling weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Provide children with daily physical education classes
  • Extend extracurricular physical activity programs
  • Classify obesity as a disease for reimbursement coding
  • Conduct a national campaign promoting the health benefits of exercise to the public
  • Create incentives for employees to join local fitness centers
  • Change the perception of being overweight at all ages. The primary concern should be health, not appearance.
  • According to the report, the following illnesses and health conditions are associated with being overweight:

  • Premature death
  • Increased surgical risk
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Psychological difficulties due to social stigmatization
  • Hypertension
  • Hirsutism (excess body and facial hair)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Cancer
  • Menstrual irregularities
  • Asthma
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Complications of pregnancy
  • Stress incontinence (urine leakage).

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