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Sebelius Shares Ideas to Fight Obesity

sebeliusIt’s no surprise to anyone who’s been, well, out in public pretty much ever, that there’s a serious obesity epidemic in this country. Two out of every three American adults are overweight and so are one out of five children. Obesity in childhood can lead to a host of health problems later in life, and is the biggest single market for later developing diabetes.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke at a conference on obesity and prevention this week, and touted some new strategies suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help combat the obesity epidemic.

Among them are bringing more grocery stores to underserved areas, expanding schools’ physical education choices, and encouraging breast feeding.

I feel uniquely qualified to comment here since I actually do fit in the obese category. These are all good ideas, especially increasing access to good food. In my city, which has an increasingly shrinking number of grocery stores, it’s more unusual to see a skinny kid than a really fat one. When the only store within walking distance is a gas station, that’s where you’re shopping.

But I think more needs to be done. For example, some believe that the endocrine disruptors in BPA and phalates are causing more obesity, which to me makes some sense. Stuff that used to be packaged in glass or paper is increasingly now packaged in plastic, and it’s at least possible that’s having some effect on increasing obesity rates.

And if you look at the statistics on weight loss, the vast majority of people who lose weight end up gaining it back, and more (hello!). And the average weight loss? Ten pounds. Something is going on here, and I wish more attention was being paid to biological causes instead of just behavioral ones.

But simply making it easier for people to take those first steps, like take a walk or find decent food, won’t hurt and will probably help. Some of the $1 billion in stimulus funds appropriated for disease prevention will go towards implementing these, Sebelius said.

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