Nutrition Programs May Be Driving A Slowdown In Obesity

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The adult obesity rate only increased by 0.2 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) — the slowest rise in a decade. That may be driven by increased awareness of obesity’s health consequences and nutritional programs aimed at promoting healthier lifestyles, according to public health experts.

U.S. obesity rates have ballooned by almost 10 percent in the last 15 years, and Americans’ unhealthy lifestyles have contributed to millions of deaths — and massive public and private health care spending — due to diabetes and heart disease. That disproportionately affects the 12.5 million obese American children under the age of 20, since established unhealthy habits are difficult to reverse later on in life.

But community grants provided by the CDC, and Obamacare funding meant to strengthen local efforts for promoting nutritional wellness and exercise, may have led to the recent slowdown in that trend. The Affordable Care Act allocates $15 billion over the next decade to statewide anti-obesity measures, and historical evidence in cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia have shown that aggressive nutrition efforts can engender significant public health benefits.

Not all lawmakers are fans of those efforts. As Modern Healthcare notes, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to repeal Obamacare’s preventative health fund, dismissing it as a “slush fund.”

Still, American obesity rates remain unacceptably high, leading doctors’ groups to advocate policy changes that further address obesity. On Wednesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) officially endorsed classifying obesity as a “disease” in the hopes that private and public insurance programs will design more robust benefits to treat it as a standalone condition, and not just its health-related consequences. Many public and private insurers don’t cover nutritional consultation for obese Americans or drug therapy to treat the condition.