AMA will urge obesity education

June 21, 2012, Associated Press

By Lindsey Tanner

The American Medical Association (AMA) put its weight Wednesday behind requiring yearly instruction aimed at preventing obesity for public schoolchildren and teens.

The AMA, the nation’s largest physicians group, agreed to support legislation that would require classes in causes, consequences and prevention of obesity for first- through 12th-graders. Doctors will be encouraged to volunteer their time to help with that under the new policy adopted on the final day of the AMA’s annual policymaking meeting. …

Doctors at the meeting shared sobering statistics and personal stories in urging the AMA to sharpen its focus on obesity prevention.

“I can’t tell you the number of 40-pound 1-year-olds I see every day,” Dr. Melissa Garretson, a pediatrician in Stephensville, Texas, told the delegates before Wednesday’s vote. She said requiring obesity education “is a great idea.”

The measure was drafted by the AMA’s Pennsylvania delegation. It cited data showing that more than 300 million people worldwide are obese, and said requiring nutrition education to prevent obesity had never been proposed.

Many adults also are affected obesity affects more than one-third of U.S. adults and almost 1 in 5 — more than 12 million — children. Recent evidence suggests those numbers may have stabilized, but doctors say that’s small consolation when so many people are still too fat.

Excess weight is strongly linked with diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, and weight loss of just 5 percent can help improve health, the Pennsylvania doctors’ measure said.

Dr. Bruce Wilder, a delegation member, said he would ask Pennsylvania legislators to introduce legislation to enact that requirement in schools. …

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