HEALTH, from Page 32
lion have arthritis. Every year, almost 800,000 have a stroke, and about one in three deaths from cancer are related to weight problems, poor eating habits and physical inactivity.
While many Americans are becoming more health-conscious, the majority continues on a dismal path. “This study shows us two futures of America’s health,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo, president and CEO of RWJF. “At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health-care costs. Nothing less is acceptable.”
Treating obesity and related diseases already costs an estimated $147 billion to $210 billion annually in health care, and these numbers will increase by another $48 billion to $66 billion if current trends persist, according to TFAH. The only way to change course is “to invest in obesity-prevention programs that match the severity of the problem,” said Jeff Levi, TFAH’s executive director, at a news conference for the study release.
The report included a series of policy recommendations, such as swift implementation of existing legislation, as well as creation of additional prevention strategies and action plans.
Government regulations are a justifiable option when they lead to preventing excess calorie consumption and obesity-related health problems and deaths, wrote Dr. Thomas A. Farley, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, in an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association.
In this country, we have long treated lifestyle choices as personal matters that should not be regulated or interfered with. But, as it is becoming increasingly apparent on so many levels, our attitudes have consequences, and sometimes, they make the difference between life and death.
TIMI GUSTAFSON, a registered dietitian and health counselor. Visit her website: timigustafson.com.To comment on this column, write to