HHS Urges Community Partnerships to
Improve Physical Activity
CDC Study Finds Medical Costs Among Obese Young People Increase Significantly
HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today called on families, communities and businesses to work together and create innovative ways to encourage greater physical activity among children.
Secretary Thompson was joined by Education Secretary Rod Paige and made the call as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new study finding that public health problems associated with obesity among the nation's youth are causing a major economic health care burden, in addition to having a profound affect on individual health.
In the study, CDC researchers found that obesity-related annual hospital costs increased three-fold over the 20-year period from 1979 to 2000. During that time, annual hospital costs for obesity-related conditions in youths aged 6–17 increased from $35 million to $127 million (in 2001 dollars).
Secretary Thompson called for increased physical activity during an event for HHS' "Physical Activity Day," during which he and Secretary Paige were joined by nationally recognized athletes Herschel Walker, Martina Navratilova and Dominique Dawes, as well as local schoolchildren, representatives of the nation's leading sporting goods manufacturers and the organization P.E.4LIFE to demonstrate the importance of physical activity to overall health, and the fact that physical activity can be fun and easy to do.
"We need to show children the fun in being active and persuade communities to provide more activities for their youth," Secretary Thompson said. "We need to stop the guilt-ridden lectures and show kids the enjoyable things that they can do to improve their health. That way, they'll want to spend more time on the playgrounds and less time on their Play Stations."
"Choices like—turning off the TV and going swimming instead. Choices like—eating nutritious vegetables instead of fatty French fries. Choices like—putting down the video games and picking up a tennis racket or a football or a basketball can make a huge difference," Secretary Paige said. "So I'm issuing a challenge to the boys and girls here today and boys and girls all across America: Get up and get outdoors. Swim. Hike. Scrimmage. Jog. Skate. Tumble. Sprint. Pirouette. Vault. Dribble. Slam-dunk. Do whatever. Just move your body."
More than 60 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese, but the problem is not limited to those 18 and older. The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children and adolescents has more than tripled in the past two decades. In 1999, the prevalence of overweight among children 6–11 years of age and adolescents 12–19 years of age was 13 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Overall in the United States, physical inactivity and unhealthy eating contribute to obesity, cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are responsible for at least 300,000 deaths each year.
To show that physical activity can be fun and easy to do—and even educational—area elementary schoolchildren, with the help of Walker, Navratilova and Dawes, joined Secretary Thompson to demonstrate activities that communities can easily arrange, including games with balls, ribbons and jump ropes. In addition, the schoolchildren navigated the "heart adventure course," a large-scale model of the heart that helps kids learn how blood pumps through the body.
"Physical inactivity reaches into every segment of our society: it is a health care issue, a competitive workforce issue…even a military readiness issue," said Jim Baugh, president of Wilson Sporting Goods and founder of P.E.4LIFE, a nonprofit organization working to improve the levels of physical activity in America's children through quality physical education. "As such, the public and private sectors must stand together, and this impressive coalition of politicians, business leaders, celebrities and star athletes that are here for National P.E. Day attests to the importance of this cause."
Today's study illustrates the growing problem of childhood overweight and obesity. Additional findings include:
in the past 20 years, the percentage of hospital discharges with obesity tripled from 0.36 percent to 1.07 percent;
obesity-associated diseases such as diabetes nearly doubled from 1.43 percent to 2.36 percent;
obesity-related gallbladder diseases tripled from 0.18 percent to 0.59 percent;
and obesity-related sleep apnea increased five-fold from 0.14 percent to 0.75 percent. The study is published in the May electronic pages of Pediatrics.
"This study adds to the evidence that poor dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles among young people carry many health risks and impose a severe economic burden on our society," said Secretary Thompson. "There are many steps that parents, schools and communities can do to help minimize overweight and obesity among young people."
HHS supports numerous activities to engage families, schools and communities in increasing physical activity and understanding the benefits that activity brings. In fiscal year 2002, CDC will dedicate $27.8 million to expand 12 state nutrition and physical activity programs and support research to increase physical activity and improve nutrition in states and communities. Information on specific HHS activities to engage families, schools and communities in increasing levels of physical activity can be found in the fact sheet "HHS Promotes Health Through Physical Activity" at http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2002pres/20020501.html.
"Economic Burden of Obesity in Youths Aged 6 to 17 years: 1979–1999" is based upon an analysis of the National Hospital Discharge Survey (NHDS), Multi-Year Data File 1979–1999. The NHDS recorded annual discharges from inpatient records acquired from a nationally representative sample of hospitals. To obtain a copy of the article, please call Tim Hensley or Anita Blankenship at CDC at (770) 488-5820. Additional information about nutrition and physical activity is available at CDC's Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa or by calling toll-free 888-CDC-4NRG.
The event was part of Secretary Thompson's weeklong efforts to highlight disease prevention as the primary way that Americans can improve their health and personal well being while reducing their health care costs. Secretary Thompson has made disease prevention and health promotion a top priority, and the President's budget for fiscal year 2003 proposes a $20 million new pilot program, "Healthy Communities," to help deliver community-wide prevention support. In addition, under the President's budget, HHS would spend more than $16 billion for all disease prevention activities.
Note: All HHS press releases, fact sheets and other press materials are available at http://www.hhs.gov/news.