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Fat vs. pols, docs & us
The time to take action against obesity in America is now

Date published: 1/6/2013

IN HIS INAUGURAL address, Gov. McDonnell called Virginia "a commonwealth of opportunity for health and wellness" and emphasized "preventive health care and healthy living through nutrition and physical activity, the prevention of childhood obesity, and awareness of prevention strategies."

Accordingly, Virginia's first lady, Maureen McDonnell, has made nutrition and the fight against childhood obesity two of her top priorities.

And now that he has taken his oath in the U.S. Senate, Virginians should count on former governor Tim Kaine to make good his promise to support congressional legislation barring the purchase of sugary drinks and certain junk foods with food stamps.

It is crucial that political leaders follow through on such pledges because Virginia is on course to see obesity rates soar to 49.7 percent by 2030--while 13 other states can expect rates of 60 percent or more--reports the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Thus, the number of Virginians with Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension, and arthritis would skyrocket in less than one generation.

This will come at a time when baby boomers will burden the health care system with ailments common to aging, when the doctor shortage in the United States becomes more acute, and when overall health care expenditures are expected to explode.

The good news is that Americans can take it upon themselves to enjoy a healthier future by watching what they eat and exercising. Jeff Levi, of the Trust for America's Health, says that if people would reduce their average body mass index by just 5 percent, millions of Americans would be spared health problems, and billions in medical spending would be saved.

Success requires a joint effort by lawmakers, M.D.s, and average Americans. This is not the stuff of New Year's resolutions, made and then forgotten. Real work needs to start now, because we're not just headed for a health care crossroads, but for a dead end.