U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tommy Thompson and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman met last October with leaders of the National Restaurant Association and National Council of Chain Restaurants to begin planning the food and beverage industries’ role in the war against the growing obesity epidemic. Among the issues discussed were providing the American public easy-to-understand nutritional information, promoting healthiness through mass marketing and offering more healthy meals.
“I am calling on leaders from the food and beverage industry to aid us in our fight against obesity...We must act now, and act together, in order to improve the health of our country’s adults and children,” Thompson said.
“Bringing various industries together to promote balanced diets and healthier lifestyles is important as we look at more aggressive ways to fight obesity in America,” Veneman added. “At USDA [the U.S. Department of Agriculture], our goal is to work together in partnership with all sectors to strengthen our ability to reach consumers about these important lifestyle decisions.” The two secretaries plan to approach other sectors—including not only fruit and vegetable growers, grocery manufacturers, public health groups and state leaders but also physical fitness groups and educators—for additional help in fighting obesity.
This effort is another phase of President George W. Bush’s HealthierUS Initiative, dedicated to improving overall health in the U.S. through regular exercise, proper nutrition, preventive screenings and wise lifestyle choices. President Bush’s HHS budget for fiscal year 2003 includes more than $16 billion for disease prevention programs and research for children and adults. It also provides record-level funding for USDA’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and increased funding for other child nutrition programs.
Overweight and obesity have been strongly associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other potentially fatal health problems and are now a problem particularly among American children. To learn more about the HealthierUS Initiative, visit www .healthi erus.gov. For information on obesity and other health problems among children, visit www.childrenshealth.gov and see “Children + Fitness = Joy” (IDEA Personal Trainer, October 2002, pp. 26-37).