Contact: Cindy Karra -- 202-974-5009

Dr. Koop Supports Goals to Increase Obesity Research

Washington, D.C., February 8, 1996 -- Dr. C. Everett Koop, former U.S. Surgeon General and chairman of the obesity prevention campaign called Shape Up America!, today supported recommendations in a new government report which calls for expanded research efforts to identify individuals at risk for obesity and help them permanently alter their behavior to improve their health.

The findings of the report -- "Meeting the Challenge: A Research Agenda for America’s Health, Safety and Food" -- were released at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on February 8. Developed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the report is the result of broad consultation with scientific experts in academia, industry, and government.

Citing new statistics which find that more than one-third of U.S. adults are now overweight or obese, the report concludes that research is the key to solving the obesity epidemic in the U.S. "Effectively changing human behavior and the amount and types of food we eat depend on a thorough understanding of neural processes, memory and learning, appetite regulation, and control of food intake," the report states.

The report points out the challenge of creating communities that will encourage children and adults to safely and easily engage in activity designed to promote weight control and the maintenance of health. Research is urgently needed to help design effective community interventions to promote healthful eating and increased physical activity.

"At a time when obesity rates have reached epidemic levels, it is critical that we expand the knowledge base about the causes of the disease and new treatment options. Today, the understanding of obesity is entering a phase of rapid expansion. With an intensified research agenda, it is now possible for scientists to uncover significant new findings about the underlying molecular, genetic, environmental and behavioral causes of obesity, leading to new therapies and more effective prevention strategies," said Dr. Koop.

Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., President of Shape Up America!, who advised the Office of Science and Technology Policy in preparing the obesity section of the report, said that today only a fraction of federal research dollars are committed to the study of obesity even though the disease is a major risk factor associated with five of the leading causes of death in the U.S. -- heart disease, some forms of cancer, diabetes, stroke and atherosclerosis. Currently, federal funding for obesity research through the National Institutes of Health is only $34 million, compared with $1.4 billion allocated for cancer research and $930 million spent on heart disease/stroke research.

"Our goal is to awaken everyone in this nation to the insidious nature of obesity. It silently crept up and captured an entire generation and is threatening the next. The solution is within our grasp; we must apply our ingenuity and resources to intervention research at the individual, workplace, and community levels." Dr. Moore said.

Shape Up America! is a multi-year, privately funded initiative to elevate obesity prevention and treatment as a national priority. Besides conducting public education programs, the campaign is advocating changes in public policy to combat obesity in America, stressing the need for workplace programs, increased funding and availability of school and community-based physical education and nutrition programs and expanded research efforts into the prevention, causes and treatment of obesity.