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The Introduction of the Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise Act (LIFE)

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, now that the cherry blossoms have signaled that spring has come, I introduce the Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise Act (LIFE), authorizing a national initiative to attack a major health problem in the United States that cannot be remedied through the health care system alone. Growing problems of overweight and obesity are now found in Americans of every age, race, and major demographic group, and threatens the health of Americans like no other single disease or condition does. In fact, the key to eliminating many of the most serious health conditions is reducing overweight and obesity, not even the much need Affordable Care Act. The LIFE bill would provide $25 million in funding 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 NBC's `The Biggest Loser' to a steady stream of diet books, startling rates of obesity among adults and children continue in the United States. In 2007, estimates from the CDC National Center for Health Statistics showed that the percentage of children who are overweight has more than doubled, and among adolescents, the rates have tripled since 1980. Today, 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 healthcare system and the insurance premium of average Americans are paying the price for this generation. The consequences for kids will follow them throughout their lives if we do not act quickly and decisively. If we are serious about healthcare, we must start where the most serious health conditions begin: in the epidemic of overweight and obesity.

The LIFE bill seeks to provide the first national strategy by directing the CDC to pursue obesity and sedentary lifestyles in three ways: train health professionals to recognize the signs of obesity early and educate people concerning healthy lifestyles, such as proper nutrition and regular exercise; conduct education campaigns to teach the public about how to recognize and address overweight and obesity; and develop intervention strategies to be used in everyday life at worksites and in community settings. This legislation is the minimum necessary to address our most important healthcare crisis. Already, chronic diseases, many of which are caused or exacerbated by overweight or obesity, account for 70 percent of all deaths in the U.S., and 60 percent of U.S. medical care expenses annually. According to the Surgeon General's Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity, the cost of obesity in the United States was more than $117 billion in 2000. The CDC highlights a study that estimates the annual cost to be $147 billion. Currently, 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 has dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 33 percent in 2005. National data show an increase in unhealthy eating habits for adults and no change in physical activity. Changes in nutrition are equally critical because 60 percent of young people consume too much fat, a factor doubling the percentage of overweight youth.

I urge my colleagues to join me in support of this important legislation to mobilize the country now, before entirely preventable health conditions, that often begin in children, overwhelm the Nation's health care system.

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