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Commentary |

Tackling Obesity:  Is Primary Care Up to the Challenge?

Robert F. Kushner, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(2):121-123. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.479.
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The US Healthy People 2010 goal of reducing the proportion of adults who are obese to 15% will not be met.1 In fact, the proportion of American adults who are obese has increased 140% over the past decade. At present, more than one-third of adults, or more than 72 million people, were obese in 2005-2006.2 There is also a disproportionate number of minorities affected. Blacks have a 51% higher prevalence of obesity and Hispanics have a 21% higher obesity prevalence compared with whites. Obesity, along with an unhealthy diet and physical inactivity, is one of the most important contributors to chronic illness, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and many types of cancer. By recent estimates, the annual burden of obesity has risen to almost 10% of health care spending, amounting to $147 billion in 2008.3 Annual medical spending for obese people was $1429 (42%) greater than spending for normal-weight people in 2006. Thus, halting and reversing the obesity epidemic must be a top national priority. Most assuredly, reducing the prevalence rates of obesity will require a comprehensive public health plan because its origins are multifaceted, brought about by an interaction between environmental, behavioral, socioeconomic, metabolic, and genetic factors.

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