Governments should help trim the fat

When New York recently banned super-size sugary drink sales in that city, critics blasted Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s latest public health initiative as nanny-state policy gone wild.

But Bloomberg’s brand of activism to counter his town’s expanding waistlines will be more and more in demand if new predictions on the nation’s obesity rate prove accurate.

With two-thirds of Americans already overweight, a study funded by the respected Robert Wood Johnson Foundation now forecasts a staggering rise in obesity in less than two decades — with as many as one out of every two people being obese by 2030.

The outlook for Pennsylvania is particularly troubling, with more than half the state’s population expected to come in at more than 30 pounds above a healthy weight — compared to fewer than one in three today.

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New Jersey, now fairly trim by national standards, would see its obesity rates double.

Beyond assuring that the weight-loss business continues to be a growth industry, the report from the Trust for America’s Health portrays a grim future in which millions of lives are put at greater risk from diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Along with those debilitating ailments, of course, comes the cost to provide medical care to their victims — which could be a staggering $66 billion per year, the group calculated.

Given those dreadful costs — both human and financial — it’s clear that Bloomberg-style strategies aimed at helping people keep off the pounds will be critically important.

Philadelphia, too, has taken positive steps, including requiring nutritional information on some restaurant menus. And Mayor Nutter proposed a tax on sugary drinks, but flaws cost it the support it needs to win City Council support.

The issue isn’t whether big is beautiful, but whether a nation that tips the scales so heavily will be able to get its staggering health-care costs under control over the long term.

A slight decline in obesity rates recently reported among Philadelphia schoolchildren shows inroads are being made. But the Robert Wood Johnson study indicates more aggressive efforts are needed to curb the nation’s appetite.

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