Have you noticed the surge of headlines this year about obesity?

Health Consequences of Obesity

•Premature death

•Increased risk of heart disease

Until recently, weight was considered a personal issue. Not any more.

In 1999, 61 percent of adults in the United States were overweight or obese. But even more alarming was the fact that the prevalence of overweight adolescents (aged 12 to 19) had nearly tripled (to 14 percent) during the past two decades. Further, 13 percent of children aged six to 11 were also overweight.

With obesity spreading into the nation’s youth, adult prevalence will only worsen in the decades to come.

And that means problems for the nation’s overburdened health care system.

According to a study cited in USA Today (May 13, 2003), “Americans’ extra weight costs the nation as much as $93 billion in annual medical bills, and the government pays about half that amount.” By comparison, the annual medical bill for smoking was estimated at $76 billion just a few years ago.