banner
Contact: Cindy Karra -- 202-974-5009

Public Health Groups Join Forces to Counter Confusion About Health Impact of Obesity

Roll Out New Advertising on Health Benefits of Weight Control

WASHINGTON, DC; June 8, 2005-- Concerned that the public may be discounting the serious nature of obesity, Shape Up America! has joined forces with 16 national public health, nutrition and consumers organizations to communicate this simple message: healthy weight and good health go hand-in-hand.

Responding to the controversy caused when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered its estimate of the number of deaths attributable to obesity, Shape Up America! -- the anti-obesity crusade launched by former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop -- is rolling out a national advertising campaign to focus attention on the significant health benefits of weight control. The first newspaper ad, which appears in today's Washington Times, focuses specifically on the link between weight and health and concludes, "If you are overweight, shedding excess pounds is one of the healthiest things you can do."

Along with Shape Up America!, 16 prominent national public health, nutrition and consumers organizations have signed onto the ad and support its message: American Association of Diabetes Educators; American Cancer Society; American Council on Science and Health; American Diabetes Association; American Dietetic Association; American Institute for Cancer Research; American Public Health Association; American Obesity Association; American Society for Clinical Nutrition; American Society for Nutritional Sciences; National Consumers League; National Women's Health Resource Center; NAASO, The Obesity Society; Pennington Biomedical Research Center; University of California Department of Nutrition; and the Yale Prevention Research Center.

"It is not every day that 16 national organizations lend their names to an advertising message," said Dr. Koop. "What this show of force makes clear is that controlling one's weight is one of the best ways to stay healthy."

Underscoring the Science

Although the new ad uses both simple and direct language, its message is supported by conclusive scientific evidence showing that obesity increases the risk for many life-threatening diseases and disabling conditions. To date, obesity has been linked with more than 30 medical conditions and especially type 2 diabetes and heart disease where about two-thirds of all cases are associated with overweight. The majority of the direct costs of obesity, estimated to exceed $50 billion annually, are associated with diabetes and heart disease. Other co-morbid conditions associated with obesity -- which will worsen significantly as the degree of obesity increases and conversely, will improve with weight loss -- include hypertension, some forms of cancer, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and gout.

"With 64 percent of all adults either overweight or obese, it is essential that we promote a new understanding that weight and health are strongly linked, " said Barbara J. Moore, Ph.D., President of Shape Up America! "Not only does health deteriorate with excess weight but it improves quickly and significantly with weight loss."

The ad also drives home the health benefits afforded by even a modest weight loss for people who are overweight or obese. According to the scientific data, losing a modest amount of weight, defined as a weight loss of 5 percent to 10 percent of initial body weight, improves the body's response to insulin, aids blood sugar control, controls or prevents high blood pressure, and improves triglyceride, HDL and LDL cholesterol levels.

Besides focusing on the health benefits, a key message of the ad is that sustained weight loss is achievable if people set realistic goals and adopt a comprehensive weight program that includes healthy eating, being physically active, and being surrounded by a supportive atmosphere that encourages problem solving and the adoption of constructive behaviors and attitudes. According to data collected by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) -- a longitudinal prospective study of individuals aged 18 years and over who have successfully maintained a 30 pound weight loss for at least a year -- the vast majority of the 4,000 people studied have lost an average of 66 pounds and maintained a weight loss of at least 30 pounds for an average of 5 years. NWCR is a collaborative venture among three U.S. universities - Brown University, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Colorado.

Reinforcing its ad campaign, Shape Up America! will use multiple information channels to convey solutions-oriented information, including new information on the organization's Web site - www.shapeup.org. The group is also planning to place additional ads around this topic.

About Shape Up America!

Shape Up America! was founded in 1994 by former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop to raise awareness of the health effects of obesity and to provide responsible information on weight management to the public and to health care professionals. A network of leading associations in the fields of medicine, public health, nutrition and physical activity provide support for this initiative.

#####