The Obesity Epidemic - transcript
[Dr. Dietz] Obesity costs this country about $150 billion a year, or almost 10 percent of
the national medical budget. Approximately one in three adults and one in six children
are obese. Obesity is epidemic in the United States today and a major cause of death,
attributable to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
[Announcer] CDC Presents: Health Matters.
[Dr. Dietz] At its simplest, obesity results from people consuming more calories than
their bodies burn, but it’s a more complex problem than that. People didn’t decide to
become overweight. Their weight gain is a consequence of complicated changes in the
environment, where food is more readily available and opportunities for physical activity
[Dr. O’Toole] Societal, economic, cultural conditions have all contributed
to the rise in obesity.
[Dr. Moore] One contributing factor is the fact that the way we eat has changed over the
last 50 years. Americans are eating more processed foods and eating out a lot more
frequently. The foods that are offered in restaurants, snack shops, and in vending
machines are higher in sugar, calories, and fat than what we typically prepare in our own
homes. We are surrounded by food. We’re constantly bombarded by it. We’re consuming
larger portion sizes and more calories than ever before. Another factor is that people who
live in poor and rural communities may have less access to quality grocery stores that sell
healthy and affordable options. In these areas, it might be easier and cheaper for residents
to purchase less healthy foods and beverages.
[Dr. O’Toole] Other factors, such as technology and the way we build our communities
has influenced our lives. Both of these factors have left us more sedentary. Families must
drive to work and school because it’s often too far to walk. Many communities are built in
ways that simply make it difficult or unsafe to be physically active. For many families,
safe routes for walking and biking to school or play may not even exist. Getting to parks
and recreation centers may be difficult, and public transportation may not even be
available. And we spend a lot of time sitting in front of screens for work and for
entertainment. Also, too few students get daily quality physical education in schools.
[Dr. Moore] There is no single or simple solution to the obesity epidemic. It’s going to
take solutions at many levels in order to resolve the epidemic. What can each of us do as
individuals to be healthier? First, we can eat more fruits and vegetables and fewer foods
that are higher in fat and sugar. We can also drink more water instead of sugared drinks.
Everyone, including adults of all ages and ability levels and children, need to get the
recommended amount of physical activity. Parents can listen to their pediatricians and
restrict television viewing for their young children to less than two hours a day, and we
cannot put televisions in our children’s bedrooms. How can we work together as
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communities to resolve the obesity epidemic? Communities can expand access to fruits
and vegetables through farmers-markets programs like this one in Brownsville, Texas.
[Dr. Gowen] The market was designed for the sole intent of reducing obesity rates and
improving diabetes rates in our community. There is a wide range of people who come to
the market from different walks of life.
[Dr. Martin] Low-income families, who may not be able to afford some of the fruits and
vegetables – the voucher program has been very instrumental.
[Dr. Moore] Communities can also advocate for quality nutrition programs and physical
education in their school systems. One way to do that is through school health advisory
[Adrienne Udarbe] The school health advisory council is something that doesn’t cost any
money and it is a relatively little amount of time, and it brings together a diverse group of
people from the community and the schools.
[Child] I like to be healthy because I want to be big and strong.
[Adrienne Udarbe] Because schools face so much pressure to try to do so many other
things, the school health advisory council is the perfect way for schools to achieve this.
[Dr. O’Toole] Local governments and communities can play an important role in
developing environments that encourage and support active living. They can increase
opportunities for physical activity by encouraging mixed-use development to allow for
easy access to schools, businesses, parks, and grocery stores. They can implement trafficsafety
measures and crime-prevention strategies. Building bike paths, sidewalks and
crosswalks will foster safe and easy access to more physical activity. States and local
governments can provide incentives to existing markets to offer healthier food, and they
can also provide incentives for new businesses to establish their supermarkets in low
[Woman] The quality of the produce is much better and, of course, it’s less expensive
than at the corner stores, and it is very helpful to the neighborhood, I think, to, overall, be
a more healthier neighborhood.
[Man] I had lived in Philadelphia all my life, and I had never – there never was a market
like this around here that we can walk to, that’s a convenience and, on top of that, healthy
[Dr. O’Toole] Employers can offer work-site health programs that offer a variety of
options for their employees, such as this program in Austin, Texas.
[Debra Teague] This used to just be a place to come to work and go home, and now it’s a
place where you can come and get in your workout and get in your support group for
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your weight loss. And instead of just going to the short order cook and having a burger
and fries, you can have a nice healthier sandwich, and that’s – that’s made a difference.
[Dr. O’Toole] In addition, employers can make it easier for women to continue breastfeeding
when they return to work because babies who are breast-fed are less likely to
become overweight later in life.
[Dr. Dietz] There is no simple solution to the obesity epidemic. People need to make
better choices, but we also have to change those choices in our schools, in our child-care
settings, in our work sites, and in our communities.