Thursday, March 13, 2003

Obesity big target in U.S. health effort



By Peggy O'Farrell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - Obesity, not bioterrorism, is the fastest-growing threat to American health, says the assistant surgeon general - at least right now.

More than half of Americans, including children, are overweight, Dr. Susan Blumenthal said Wednesday at the Speaking of Women's Health National Conference in Covington. Blumenthal spoke at a media roundtable.

Some 5,000 women are attending the conference at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center. It ends Sunday and focuses on women's physical, emotional and financial well being. Obesity - defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more - increased 61 percent from 1991 to 2000, according to federal health statistics. Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky are among the 22 states where more than a fifth of adults are obese.

America's obesity epidemic is "a top priority" for federal health officials, she said. Obesity is a prime risk factor for many of the leading causes of death.

Federal initiatives geared toward preventing obesity include the "Healthier US" campaign kicked off by President Bush to improve eating habits and physical activity, the VERB campaign to increase activity among youngsters 8-12 and efforts by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make school lunches healthier. Federal grants are also available to help communities foster prevention programs, Blumenthal said.

E-mail pofarrell@enquirer.com




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