Obesity Fight Needs A Jumpstart From Ambitious Campaigns, Officials Say

The fight against obesity got a new champion in Michelle Obama nearly two years ago when the first lady launched a campaign to fight obesity in children. While Obama’s campaign has certainly helped the cause, USA Today reports that more still needs to be done.

According to the report, health officials are becoming more and more frustrated over the slow progress in the fight against obesity. While tobacco is still considered to be the number one preventable killer–467,000 people died from tobacco-related illnesses in 2005–obesity isn’t very far behind.

In that same year, an estimated 216,000 people died from obesity-related complications such as diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. An additional estimated 191,000 deaths were caused by physical inactivity, which health officials say is one of the biggest contributors to obesity.

And while tobacco-related deaths have declined significantly over the past 40 years or so, obesity isn’t getting any better.

USA Today reports:

“After decades of lawsuits, damning reports about industry practices, and stop-smoking campaigns, smoking rates have plummeted, from a high of 42% of adults in 1965 — a year after the surgeon general’s first report on smoking and health — to just over 19% today. Meanwhile, obesity has been soaring since the 1980s and only last year reached a plateau, which experts say may be only temporary. Currently, 45 million American adults are smokers, while 78 million adults and almost 13 million youngsters are counted as obese.”

The fight against tobacco gained traction thanks to community activism and groups holding manufacturers accountable for the creation and distribution of harmful products, but taking the fight to obesity is much more complicated than that.

Health officials say that much more needs to be done in a wide variety of areas, from the foods that the average person eats every day and what liquids they take in, to the amount of exercise they get in a week. Health officials are calling on a shift of social norms–changes in food preferences, activity preferences, and so on.

Before that can happen, one health official says that we need to acknowledge food as the enemy.

“Tobacco we can get rid of entirely. We don’t need it. It has no intrinsic value. But we have to eat to live and make terms with food as the enemy,” said David Katz, director of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center.

You can read more on the fight against obesity, and what health officials are trying to do to stop it, by heading to USA Today’s report.