Washington, D.C. (September 15, 2004) - Thomas Wadden, PhD, Vice-president of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) provided testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform today.
In his testimony, Dr. Wadden said that if the United States is to halt this epidemic we are going to have to: invest in prevention programs in a variety of settings, provide medical treatment to the 25% of Americans who already suffer from obesity, and learn more about our own physiology and our interaction with our environment. "Obesity could easily become the number one preventable cause of death in the coming years. Most Americans know what they need to do to lose weight but are unable to implement the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight permanently or prevent weight gain," he added.
NAASO urged Congress to support CDC funded obesity prevention programs and to provide access to treatment by calling upon the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to begin developing reimbursement guidelines for medical treatment of obesity for individuals with a high degree of body fat. Dr. Wadden said the country cannot wait until the perfect treatment for obesity is discovered, "it does not make sense to deny access to the abilities we currently have in the absence of a cure. Our goal should be to improve the health of the patient and we know that a 5% to 10% reduction in body weight significantly reduces the risk of many co-morbidities." NAASO officials had met previously in the day to discuss this with officials from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Additional research is needed to improve the treatment of obesity, to prevent the development of this condition, and to understand the link between obesity and health complications. NAASO called upon Congress to double the amount of money allocated to obesity research by the National Institutes of Health, which currently only allocates less than two percent of its total biomedical research budget to obesity.
According to data from the 1999-2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, published October 8, 2002 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), obesity continued to increase dramatically during the late 1990's for Americans of all ages, with nearly one-third of all adults-almost 59 million people-now classified as obese. This data confirms nearly a two-fold increase in the number of obese Americans in the last two decades, and emphasizes the need for more aggressive approaches to obesity treatment and prevention. Obesity can significantly increase a person's risk for a number of serious conditions, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and some types of cancer.
The North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO) is a leading scientific society dedicated to the study of obesity. NAASO is committed to encouraging research on the causes, treatment and prevention of obesity as well as to keeping the scientific community and public informed of new advances in the field. For more information about NAASO and obesity, visit www.naaso.org or call (301) 563-6526.
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