urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Forum -- Ousting Obesity: Strategies from the Tobacco Wars

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Noon–1:30 p.m. ET

Listen to the event Audio Recording

John Calfee
John Calfee
, resident scholar, American Enterprise Institute

Arthur Garson
Arthur Garson, Jr.
, executive vice president and provost, University of Virginia; former dean, University of Virginia’s School of Medicine

John Holahan
John Holahan
, director, Health Policy Center, Urban Institute (moderator)

Matthew Myers
Matthew Myers
, president, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids

Judith Thorman
Judith Thorman
, senior vice president, government affairs, American Beverage Association

As waistlines expand, life spans are shrinking. If recent trends continue, more than 40 percent of Americans will be obese within the next 10 years, and for the first time in the nation’s history, life expectancy will decline rather than grow.

The obese and overweight suffer chronic illness, poor health, and more than 100,000 preventable deaths each year. Obesity causes over $200 billion in annual health care spending, about half of which is borne by taxpayers. Further, private health insurance premiums for nonobese workers are nearly $26 billion higher annually due to obesity-generated costs.

Policymakers seeking to restrain the obesity epidemic can glean important lessons from the multipronged effort to combat tobacco use, contends a new report from the Urban Institute and the University of Virginia. Public policy interventions that halved adult tobacco use over four decades could be modified to fight obesity, such as imposing excise taxes on fattening foods, placing simple, graphic nutrition labels on the front of packages, requiring restaurant chains to put nutrition information next to each menu item, and banning the advertising and marketing of junk food.

This initiative could be an important part of national health care reform. Not only would effective anti-obesity policies slow the growth of American health care costs, an excise tax on fattening food could raise more than $530 billion over ten years, according to the report. These funds could be used to cover the uninsured and finance obesity prevention efforts.

Obesity’s rise has not resulted from a change in human nature. It’s a product of a change in the environment in which we make food choices. Join us for a lively discussion about what can happen when public health, commerce, and public policy collide.

- Bios
- Reducing Obesity: Policy Strategies from the Tobacco War

At the Urban Institute
2100 M Street N.W., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C.
Lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. The forum begins promptly at noon.

Webcast note:
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