Ills of obesity, need for industry attention gaining headlines

Not only are health clubs kicking off expansive weight-loss programs but recent articles in both Science and Fortune magazines called on companies to address the health crisis by developing tools that help people figure out how much they are eating and how to better balance their energy intake and output.
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Not only are health clubs kicking off expansive weight-loss programs but recent articles in both Science and Fortune magazines called on companies to address the health crisis by developing tools that help people figure out how much they are eating and how to better balance their energy intake and output.

"We should consider how to make sure that everyone has the information and tools needed to cognitively manage energy balance. This might involve, for example, providing better information about appropriate portion size, the energy value of food, and physical activity energy equivalent of food," concluded authors of a study on obesity and the environment in the Feb. 7 issue of Science.

According to study leader James Hill, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, "This study clearly shows that the obesity epidemic is not going away until we take control of the problem. One way to take control is to use technology that makes weight management simple." In the nine-page article in Fortune on the obesity crisis titled "Is Fat the Next Tobacco?" Fortune blamed the American lifestyle as one of the culprits for the problem.

And even the American Cancer Society is jumping aboard. On March 5, the group hopes that Americans coast-to-coast will take part in a kick-off event called the "Great American Weigh-In," similar to the group's successful "Great American Smoke-out," which calls on people to stop smoking for at least one day and promotes awareness.

This year's event will focus on creating awareness of what is considered to be one of the best ways to assess healthy body weight: Body Mass Index (BMI), which can be a complicated figure to understand. Americans will be encouraged to learn their BMI to help determine if they are within a healthy weight range.

"We know that up to a third of cancer deaths are related to diet and physical activity, and that an important means of reducing cancer risk is maintaining a healthy weight," said Mary A. Simmonds, the group's president. "Meanwhile, the number of overweight Americans continues to rise. Part of changing that begins with knowing your BMI."

There will be free "weigh-ins" at all of co-sponsor's Weight Watchers Center. There will also be a Congressional briefing with Simmonds and others to educate Congress about the impact that nutrition and physical activity have on cancer risk and other chronic diseases and to encourage the support of members for prevention efforts. The first event will kick-off a long-term public health campaign. For more: www.cancer.org.

In other headlines, Newsweek magazine in its Feb. 3 issue placed full attention on physical education in the schools in a story called "Getting Physical." Its focus is on teaching physical activity in the schools and how it can help kids grow into healthier adults. It also pointed out equipment used in modern PE that helps kids enjoy physical activity rather than see it as the mandatory grunt of yore.

SNEWS View: It's time for company's to think really hard about what it is offering the public in education and awareness as a part of its products. It's time to think out-of-the-box about what can be done to help people achieve their healthy goals -- and that doesn't mean fudging on silly fat-burning or calorie-burning counters on equipment. One benefactor here will be Smooth Fitness, which is introducing a treadmill that will tell a user what his or her, yes, BMI is. Pretty soon, we think, BMI will be discussed like HDL and LDL. And that is only a good thing for our nation's health.

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