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Odds & Sods
The Fat Report - a Round Up of Obesity News
Monday, 23rd October, 2006  - Richard Farmer

Agence France Press carried a report of calculations by Professor Adam Gilden Tsai of the University of Pennsylvania, presented at a conference on obesity held in Boston on Saturday, that costs tied to excess pounds (or kilograms) account for 5.04 percent of all US health care costs. According to this report an obese person racks up an additional $1,034 (or 40 percent) in health care costs for doctors' visits, medications and medical procedures compared with a person of average weight.

From the same conference came the suggestion that dieting in the future will be "weight loss to go," with more people getting customized advice on their cell phones, personal digital assistants and computers, and more companies delivering diet foods directly to homes. So said Thomas Wadden, one of the nation's top obesity researchers and president of the Obesity Society anyway.

Martin B. Schmidt, professor of economics at the College of William & Mary, was in super taxing mood on the op-ed pages of the New York Times. To reverse the trend towards obesity he had "a modest suggestion to reverse the trend: enact a tax on drive-through food orders." Like a good economic rationalist he saw a drive-through tax as one way of recouping future taxpayer outlays.

Obesity in children is coming to the Maltese agenda. The Malta Independent reported that the National Council of Women will be holding a seminar on the subject.

In Pennsylvania the Lebanon Daily News was also on the case of obese children with a report on Cornwall-Lebanon being one of three central Pennsylvania school districts — Harrisburg and Lower Dauphin are the other two — participating in a pilot program designed by the Hershey Medical Center to reduce obesity in children.

Marilynn Marchione of the Associated Press got a good run throughout the world with her report that a survey of 300 restaurant chefs around the country reveals that taste, looks and customer expectations are what matter when they determine portion size. Only one in six said calorie content was very important and half said it didn't matter at all.

In Kansas City childhood obesity is nothing to kid around a bout because, says the Hutchinson News, "it's becoming crisis level." No doubt they will be pleased that the National Football League has joined the fight against childhood obesity with a campaign that goes beyond gym class and aims to get kids out of their chairs in the classroom. Associated Press reported how New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning dropped by a Manhattan public school last week as part of the $1.5 million "What Moves U" campaign funded by the NFL and designed with the help of the American Heart Association to address the decline of physical education in schools.

The Archives of Disease in Childhood featured around the world, including the London Times, with reports of a paper entitled "The link between short sleep duration and obesity: we should recommend more sleep to prevent obesity" suggesting too little sleep may explain soaring levels of obesity in children, according to a scientist from Bristol University, Dr Shahrad Taheri.

In the Sydney Daily Telegraph the op-ed writer proclaimed there was "Fat chance of solving obesity" and it is time that as a community we stopped whingeing about the obesity epidemic and started accepting a few home-cooked truths about ourselves. We should be rejoicing in the fact that our insatiable appetite for fast food is becoming the biggest heath epidemic of our time. It could be a tad worse. As we are piling on the kilos, more than 30,000 people are dying of starvation or readily preventable illness each day in Africa.

London's Evening Standard has children as young as two working out on treadmills and exercise bikes as nursery and primary schools try to tackle the obesity epidemic on brightly-coloured junior versions of cardio-vascular equipment, made by a British company, which at £130 a time have been snapped up by more than 120 nurseries and primary schools in less than a year.

None of that nonsense for Ireland. There the Fine Gael political party is calling for the provision of more school sports facilities to combat Ireland's growing levels of child obesity.

Down in Brooks Country, south Georgia, WALB10 News had Brooks County Hospital teaming up with county schools to help fight child obesity through the power of education. Hospital staff and nurses say health education is the key, so they visited North Brooks Elementary to test students' blood pressure, blood sugar, weight and height. "If you teach kids at a young age that they need to worry or be concerned about their health, then we've started them young, and they carry that out through their life," says Ladon Tool, an administrator at Brooks County Hospital.

At The Western Farm Press, staff writer Elton Robinson was getting angry at Philip James, the British chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, who declared at the 10th International Obesity Congress in Sydney, Australia, that existing farm policies, particularly agricultural subsidies in the European Union and the United States, have been damaging people's health for decades. "U.S. farmers are tired of being made the scapegoat for the world's problems," wrote Robinson, "and this charge by James is the last straw. If the world's health industries really want to solve the growing world obesity epidemic, start by advocating personal responsibility. Tell people the truth. You are what you eat."

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