December 17, 1998
David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Secretary for Health and Surgeon General
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Office of Public Health and Science
Washington, DC 20201
From: The North American Association for the Study of Obesity Washington, DC
Re: Healthy People 2010
Dear Dr. Satcher:
The North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) congratulates the Department of Health and Human Services for the goals and objectives outlined in their draft document, "Healthy People 2010." Healthy People has established goals for our nation's health and has been instrumental in monitoring our progress in achieving these goals. Improvements have been realized in almost every health indicator identified by Healthy People, with one important exception - obesity. Therefore, we believe obesity should be specifically targeted in Healthy People 2010 by 1) making obesity a Leading Health Indicator and 2) providing a separate chapter on "Obesity". Obesity (operationally defined as a body mass index > 30 kg/m2) and overweight (operationally defined as a body mass index > 25 kg/m2) are a major public health problem in the United States because of their high prevalence and causal relationship with many serious medical complications. The prevalence of obesity and overweight has markedly increased in the last 15 years. Data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) demonstrate that currently 54% of adults and 25% of children and adolescents in the United States are overweight or obese. Obesity is a risk factor for many serious medical diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, dyslipidemia, heart disease, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, lung diseases, arthritis, sleep disorders, and premature death.
We join other obesity and nutrition organizations in requesting that obesity (body mass index > 30 kg/m2) be used as a Leading Health Indicator because it meets all the criteria required for a Leading Health Indicator, including audience interpretability, population applicability, problem impact, representative indicators, measurable data, multilevel trackability, sensitivity to change, and relevance to policy and individual action. We also join our colleagues in requesting that a separate chapter be dedicated to obesity under the section *Prevent and Reduce Diseases and Disorders*. Obesity affects a large portion of our population, is particularly prevalent among certain racial and ethnic groups, and its prevalence is rapidly rising in our children. The problem of obesity needs to be directly addressed in Healthy People 2010 and deserves special attention in its own chapter.
The North American Association for the Study of Obesity is North America's leading scientific organization dedicated to developing, extending and disseminating knowledge in the field of obesity. The more than 800 members of NAASO are leading scientists and researchers in the field. We thank you for giving us this opportunity to comment on the draft Goals and Objective for Healthy People 2010.