Yesterday a bipartisan group of former cabinet secretaries released a comprehensive and actionable plan to improve America’s physical and fiscal crises, driven by the alarming rates of obesity and chronic disease such as Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The report, entitled Lots to Lose: How America’s Health and Obesity Crisis Threatens our Economic Future, from the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative, calls on the public and private sectors to collaborate in creating healthy families, schools, workplaces and communities, focusing on existing best practices that can be implemented on a large scale to broaden their impact and help scale back obesity in the United States.
The co-chairs recognized that given America’s limited federal resources, any effective plan to reduce obesity and health care costs will need to engage private and public sector partners. Former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said, “There is no silver bullet. But we have identified numerous steps that show what is possible. We must all take action to beat this threat. America cannot afford for the obesity crisis to go unnoticed any longer.”
Several of the strategies targeted areas that would help increase consumption of fruits and vegetables as a sustainable way to combat obesity and related health-care costs. One recommended strategy is a generic fruit and vegetable promotion program, paid for out of an expanded specialty crop block grant program, to establish a national pool of funding to promote specialty crop market promotion and nutrition education, modeled after the Fruits & Veggies–More Matters campaign.
Other strategies included nutrition training in medical education; developing new dietary guidelines for a child’s first thousand days, covering pregnant women and children up to two years old; and developing a database of exemplary workplace wellness programs with cost/benefit analysis to help scale up best practices. At the request of the co-chairs of the report, Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), provided them with data and information such as the National Action Plan report card. Led by PBH in 2010, the National Fruit & Vegetable Alliance issued a report card on progress made on strategies outlined in the 2005 National Action Plan.
“The report is full of solid bi-partisan-supported strategies, that if implemented, would result in a significant decline in obesity, other chronic diet related diseases, and related health-care costs,” says Pivonka. “PBH welcomes any strategies, ideas, and support to increase the consumption of fresh, frozen, canned, dried fruits and vegetables as well as 100% juice in America. We’ve longed believed, and will continue to believe, that the promotion of all forms of fruits and vegetables would make huge strides in the overall effort to promote health through greater fruit and vegetable consumption.”