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More Can Be Done to Slow Obesity's Toll on Health: Experts
Date:7/28/2009

HHS Secretary Sebelius says real change begins with America's kids,,

TUESDAY, July 28 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity in the United States now carries the hefty price tag of $147 billion per year in direct medical costs, just over 9 percent of all medical spending, experts reported at a national conference Tuesday in Washington, DC.

"To put that figure in perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year. So ending obesity would save our health care system 50 percent more dollars than curing cancer," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday morning in prepared remarks for the "Weight of the Nation" conference, sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But Sebelius also believes that interventions that can be put in place today can help turn the tide against obesity, especially among America's children.

"Right now, they're learning the wrong habits. The share of children that are overweight has quadrupled in the last 40 years," she said in her prepared statement. "If there was an epidemic of little kids getting cancer, it would be a national crisis. But because it's obesity and the damage doesn't come until later in life, we've been slow to act."

However, simple steps can work to change youngsters' eating habits, she added. Cheaper, healthier offerings of fruits and vegetables at school cafeterias and improved access to classes and programs that emphasize physical activity have worked around the country to keep kids slim, Sebelius pointed out.

In the meantime, the cost of caring for obesity-linked health woes continues to rise. According to the new CDC data released at the conference, people who are obese spend almost $1,500 more each year on health care -- about 41 percent more than an average-weight person. Beyond those costs are the disability and early deaths caused by ob
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