Childhood Obesity: Let's Act Before We Lose a Generation

Characters from a favorite children's story are enlisted in obesity campaign.

ByABC News
September 11, 2009, 1:19 PM

Sept. 12, 2009— -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has just announced another collaboration with the Ad Council to help fight childhood obesity. The latest campaign, developed pro bono by Warner Bros. pictures, features characters from the film,"Where the Wild Things Are," adapted from Maurice Sendak's classic children's book of the same name.

Public service announcements donated by radio, print, television and Internet media will attempt to convince kids and their parents that leading a healthy lifestyle is important.

We can't get enough of this message about healthy lifestyle, because the news on obesity, and especially childhood obesity, is grim. And it's getting worse. The last few months have seen a raft of reports on obesity, all sending a clear message: obesity is overwhelming us.

It's damaging us physically, leading to increases in diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and other chronic conditions. And it's breaking us financially, as our health care system buckles under the weight of the cost of treatments for these diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Trust for America's Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation proclaimed America fatter than ever in two separate studies issued in July. More than 26 percent of the population is now fully obese and two-thirds are either overweight or obese.

Three other studies that same month detailed obesity's financial impact. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said spending on obese patients over five years soared more than 80 percent to exceed $303 billion in 2006, up from $167 billion in 2001. The journal Health Affairs published a study indicating that the cost of hospitalizing obese children between 1999 and 2005 nearly doubled, with twice as many children requiring such care. A third study by the nonprofit group RTI International said obesity-related diseases account for 9.1 percent of all medical spending in the U.S., reaching an estimated $147 billion dollars in 2008 alone -- double the amount of just a decade ago. The findings prompted the report's lead researcher to say, "Obesity is the single biggest reason for the increase in health care costs."