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A habit Americans must break

May 05, 2005

A new University of Baltimore report indicates that growth in America is outpacing that of Europe.

Unfortunately, the growth being talked about is not economic, but citizens' weight. It's a matter of concern for all Americans, whether or not they're overweight.

The university study revealed that almost 66 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. In Europe, that figure ranges from 33 percent to 50 percent.

Not only does obesity raise the public's cost for health care, but The Associated Press also reported that according to a recent study reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine, obesity threatens to lower life expectancy in the U.S. as well.

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The aim of the University of Baltimore report was to call attention to what states are doing to prevent obesity in general and childhood obesity in particular.

Anthony McCann, Maryland Health Secretary, said that battling obesity is like battling smoking and AIDS. It will take a public-private partnership to do it successfully, he said.

There is a growing awareness of obesity's effect on health. Many national restaurant chains have introduced salad options or diet meals.

But unlike a bartender who has the option of cutting off a patron who has had too much alcohol, restaurant servers can't tell patrons they're eating too much.

What is needed is a national campaign of the type that the late President Kennedy launched on behalf of physical fitness during the 1960s.

This will require some creative thinking, because, while it is possible to quit smoking, it's not possible to stop eating.

That said, it should be possible to craft a campaign that would make the point that eating a healthy diet is helpful in preventing diabetes and heart disease, not to mention easing pressure on one's feet and knees.

Can this happen in a country in which eating is as much a part of holiday celebrations as fireworks is of Independence Day events?

It will, if Americans realize that celebration to excess at meal time will mean a shorter, less happy life.

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