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Declare war on obesity

February 17, 2009
by Claudia Zapata
San Antonio Express-News

While we're on the subject of revitalizing the country, how about a stimulus agreement that gets us off the couch? Or government spending that doesn't add pork - to our waistlines? And what about increasing campaign spending, for ads that promote healthy eating?

The critical issues facing the nation are many, and the tasks of the new administration, daunting, but even now - especially now - tackling the obesity crisis with prevention and wellness programs must be a part of a progressive agenda. To improve the physical, emotional and financial health of the country, President Barack Obama should declare a war on fat.

Last month, a large group of leading health experts and organizations sent then-President-elect Obama a letter urging him "to take bold and urgent action to reverse the obesity epidemic."

Originally, $5.8 billion in the Senate bill and $3 billion in the House bill were allocated for a prevention and wellness fund, but the figure was slashed to just $1 billion in the compromise bill.

So how much is an ounce of prevention worth? According to a report from Trust for America's Health (healthyamericans.org), a signatory to the letter to Obama, if $10 per person per year is invested in proven community based programs that target nutrition, exercise and smoking cessation, the savings in national health-care costs would total $16 billion annually within five years. That's $1 of prevention producing a return of $5.60.

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