Washington, D.C. — The two most recent Surgeons General of the United States, David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D., FAAFP, FACPM, FACP and Richard H. Carmona, M.D., M.P.H., FACS, today led the Strategies to Overcome and Prevent (STOP) Obesity Alliance in urging policymakers to take direct action in health reform to address obesity and the chronic diseases associated with it.
“We’ve reached the tipping point on obesity in the United States,” said Dr. Richard H. Carmona, 17th U.S. Surgeon General, Health and Wellness Chairperson of the STOP Obesity Alliance and President of Canyon Ranch Institute. “Obesity now impacts every aspect of our lives, including the future of our health care system. Health reform that directly addresses obesity will save lives, save money, and improve the health and well-being of every American.”
“When I served as Surgeon General, obesity was a problem of epidemic proportions,” said Dr. David Satcher, 16th U.S. Surgeon General, who released the 2001 Surgeon General’s Call to Action To Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity. “Today, we are in a state of emergency when it comes to obesity. The issues underpinning obesity are too complex and widespread for any one institution to effectively address it alone. Until we collaborate to address obesity through meaningful, population-based policies and programs, our nation will continue to be crippled by obesity and the chronic diseases it causes.”
The STOP Obesity Alliance released four targeted recommendations designed to improve the dialogue and interventions around obesity. The following elements should be included in health reform:
- Standardized and effective clinical interventions, flowing from evidence-based guidelines, such as those approved by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), that include acknowledging the health benefits of five to ten percent sustained weight loss to aid and support those individuals who are currently overweight or obese achieve improved health.
- Enhanced use of clinical preventive services to monitor health status and help prevent weight gain, especially for individuals who are already overweight and are at risk of becoming obese.
- Effective, evidence-based community programs and policies that encourage and support healthy lifestyles, focus on health literacy, address health disparities, and represent a significant investment in population-based prevention of obesity.
- Coordinated research efforts to build the evidence for all three of the above elements, continuously improving quality of care, bolstering our understanding of what does and does not work in various settings, and helping to translate the scientific research into practice recommendations for real-world clinical settings and communities.
“Obesity significantly increases the risk of having more than 20 different chronic diseases that cause tremendous suffering and early death throughout our nation,” said Carmona. “Health leaders and scientists, including Surgeon General Satcher and myself, as well as people from all sectors of society, are urging Congress to act now to include prevention and treatment of obesity in health reform.”
Dr. Satcher is Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and Center of Excellence on Health Disparities and Poussaint-Satcher-Cosby Chair in Mental Health at the Morehouse School of Medicine. Surgeon General Satcher served from 1998 to 2002 and Surgeon General Carmona served from 2002 to 2006.
Rising obesity rates across the nation have led to worsening health outcomes and increasing inequities in health1 — 72 million American adults are now considered to be overweight or obese2. Additionally, economists have identified obesity as a major driver of health care utilization and spending, and contributor to escalating health care costs. In fact, a recent study published in the journal, Health Affairs found that obesity accounts for 9.1 percent of annual health care spending in the United States, nearly $150 billion dollars a year.3
“Clearly, America cannot successfully reform the health system without addressing obesity,” said Christine Ferguson, director of the STOP Obesity Alliance. “While the situation is grave, the goal is attainable. The STOP Obesity Alliance recommendations provide a needed focus and a successful plan for health reform.”
1 Trust for America’s Health. (2009). F as in fat: how obesity policies are failing America. Washington, D.C.: Jeffrey Levi et al.
2 Ogden C.L., Carroll M.D., McDowell M.A., Flegal K.M. (2007). Obesity among adults in the United States— no change since 2003–2004. NCHS data brief no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics.
3 Finkelstein E.A., Trogdon J.G., Cohen J.W., Dietz W. (2009) Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs, 28, w822-w831.