Political Grapevine

January 23, 2009
by Steven Brown
Fox News

President Obama has made it clear that fighting obesity is a key part of his health care reform plan. In tonight's "America's Future" report, Correspondent Steve Brown tells us how the new administration may have to spend money on that fight now in order to save even more down the road.


BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The challenges we face are real. They are serious, and they are many.

STEVEN BROWN, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Among those challenges, America's seemingly never-ending battle of the bulge.

OBAMA: If we could get a handle on obesity, we also then save money in the healthcare system and in our federal budget, as well as giving people improved quality of life.

BROWN: And the new president sets a good example of a healthy lifestyle.

JEFFREY LEVI, TRUST FOR AMERICA'S HEALTH: What will be critical is translating his personal lifestyle choices into policies that make it possible for all Americans to make the kind of healthy choices that he has made.

BROWN: Jeffrey Levi is the executive director of the think tank Trust for America's Health.

LEVI: Chronic disease accounts for 70 percent of healthcare costs in the United States. Most of those chronic diseases relate back to physical activity and obesity.

BROWN: And this report by Levi's organization out last year got the attention of the Obama team. It suggests increased government spending on preventable chronic diseases could actually save $16 billion.

LEVI: What we found was that within five years, we could see a $5.60 return on that investment for every dollar that we put into prevention programs.

BROWN: Programs like keeping schools open after hours so children can play, making nutritious food more affordable in low-income areas, and raising cigarette and tobacco taxes.

During his confirmation hearings, Health and Human Services Secretary nominee Tom Daschle cited the study.

TOM DASCHLE, HHS SECRETARY-DESIGNATE: We're not doing as good a job as we should. We don't have the resources. We don't have the personnel. And I don't think we have the priority that it deserves.