To round out National Physical Fitness Month, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today introduced her Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise Act. The bill directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to combat obesity and sedentary lifestyles in three ways: conducting national education campaigns about how to recognize and address overweight and obesity; training health professionals to recognize the signs of obesity early and to educate people concerning healthy lifestyle, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise; and developing intervention strategies to be used in everyday life, such as in the workplace and in community settings. The bill would provide $25 million to the CDC for this effort, which Norton says would mostly fund pilot efforts to develop best practices and to give the country a coherent national strategy for combating overweight and obesity, the most serious threat to the nation's health. Reducing overweight and obesity has been a major priority for the Congresswoman because the District has higher rates than many jurisdictions of conditions related to obesity, such as Type 2 diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Adult obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980, from 15 percent to 35 percent.
"The correlation between good nutrition, exercise, and good health is well-established," said Norton. "If we are serious about combatting obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle, we must approach these goals strategically, as this bill does."
Norton's full statement introducing the bill follows.
Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton on the Introduction of the Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise (LIFE) Act
Ms. Norton. Mr. Speaker, I rise to reintroduce the Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise (LIFE) Act, authorizing a national initiative to attack a major health problem in the United States that cannot be remedied through the health care system alone. Increasing rates of overweight and obesity are now found in Americans of every age, race, and major demographic group, and threaten the health of Americans like no other single disease or condition. In fact, the key to eliminating many of the most serious health conditions is to reduce overweight and obesity. The bill would provide $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a coordinated national effort to reverse increasingly sedentary lifestyles and diets that are high in fat and sugar.
Despite rising consciousness of this epidemic, from television shows like "The Biggest Loser" and "Extreme Weight Loss" to a steady stream of diet books, the United States has startling rates of obesity among adults and children. In 2010, the CDC National Center for Health Statistics indcated that, since 1980, the percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled, and the percentage of adolescents has tripled. Today, the 13 million overweight children have an 80 percent chance of being overweight adults, with the health conditions that follow, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. The CDC reports that Type 2 diabetes, considered an adult disease, is now widespread in children. The rising costs of the health care system, including insurance premiums, reflect the epidemic. The consequences for children will follow them throughout their lives if we do not act quickly and decisively. If we are serious about controlling health care costs, we must start where the most serious health conditions begin: overweight and obesity.
The bill seeks to provide the first national strategy to combat the epidemic by directing the CDC to: train health professionals to recognize the signs of obesity early and to educate people concerning healthy lifestyles, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise; conduct public education campaigns about how to recognize and address overweight and obesity; and develop intervention strategies to be used in everyday life, such as in the workplace and in community settings. The legislation is the minimum necessary to address our most important health crisis. Today, chronic diseases, many of which are caused or exacerbated by overweight and obesity, account for 70 percent of all deaths in the U.S., and 60 percent of U.S. health care costs. According to the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, the cost of obesity in the U.S. was more than $117 billion in 2000. The CDC has highlighted a study that estimates the annual cost to be $147 billion. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 deaths per year are related to obesity.
A focused national health initiative is necessary because unhealthy lifestyles have become a normal part of everyday life. Participation in high school physical education classes dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2005. Changes in nutrition are equally critical because 60 percent of young people consume too much fat, a factor in the doubling of the percentage of overweight youth. Data shows an increase in unhealthy eating habits for adults and no change in physical activity.
I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important legislation to mobilize the country now, before entirely preventable health conditions, which often begin in childhood, overwhelm the nation's health care system.