Millions of Americans are consuming too many empty and fat-laden calories and not getting enough physical activity. As a result, the obesity epidemic in the United States is becoming an alarming national crisis. If obesity continues to rise at its current rate, the adult obesity rate in the United States could be at 44 percent, with 13 states above 60 percent and 39 states above 50 percent. Childhood obesity has risen as well. One in three children and adolescents are obese or overweight and an increasing number are being treated for high cholesterol and hypertension, two major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. If the obesity epidemic is not addressed, Americans can look forward to shorter life expectancies, as well as increased health care costs. The American Heart Association encourages Congress and the current administration to keep in mind the public health implications of all legislation, play a key role in shaping environments and supporting communities in promoting healthy choices.
Our federal advocacy priorities for nutrition and physical activity are:
- Protect community-based wellness initiatives supported by the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
- Promote physical activity by robustly funding walking and biking programs, including Safe Routes to School.
- Pass an education reauthorization legislation that creates supports for states to establish high quality physical education programs in schools.
- Encourage shared use of school and community facilities.
- Implement the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act to enhance wellness policies and improve nutrition standards for all foods and beverages sold during school hours.
- Reduce the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages through effective pricing policies and limited access.
- Push for strong nutrition standards in the farm bill reauthorization.
- Eliminate food deserts and improve access to fruits and vegetables.
- Work to decrease junk food marketing and advertising to children.
- Improve treatment of childhood obesity in healthcare settings by educating and empowering providers to help fulfill their role in addressing children’s health.
- Institute obesity prevention, health promotion, and nutrition and physical activity standards in child care settings.