Bill Dietz: Severe Obesity and Disparities Growing

In a plenary address to the Third Canadian Obesity Summit in Vancouver Thursday, Bill Dietz presented a compellingly clear picture of  challenges that remain for addressing obesity. While overall obesity rates seem to be stabilizing, severe obesity is growing, as are the disparities in the people affected by obesity. Disparities were at the top of the list of strategic targets that Dietz identified for better controlling and preventing obesity.

Dietz noted that obesity rates are largely stable, with the exception of adult males and male African-American youth. He also noted that the rate of severe obesity continues to grow unabated. Eight percent of Americans with the most severe obesity account for 40% of the costs of treating obesity and other chronic diseases it causes.

Obesity disproportionately affects African Americans and Latinos. African-American and Latino women have the highest adult obesity rates. Among children, African-American adolescent girls and Mexican-American adolescent boys are most affected.

Dietz remarked that an effective social movement will be required to finally reverse the problem. The essential elements of such a movement will be a shared threat addressed at the grass roots through a social network with local nodes of sustained action.

Dietz is the Former Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC. He is presently engaged in a range of obesity policy work in collaboration with the Institute of Medicine, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute, The Obesity Society, and others.

Bill Dietz, image © Ted Kyle

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