WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and David McKinley (R-WV) announced the introduction of the Halt Obesity in America Act to expand evidence-based obesity prevention strategies to more parts of the country. The bill would extend eligibility for grants that increase access to healthier foods and safe places for physical activity to more high-obesity counties. The legislation would increase the number of eligible states to apply for funding from the High Obesity Program in fiscal year 2023 from approximately 30 to 43 and increase the number of eligible counties from 335 to 1,687.
Today more than 40% of Americans – or 93.3 million people – face obesity. By 2030, half of the adult American population is projected to have obesity. Yearly, obesity-related medical care costs in the U.S. are at least $149 billion, about half of which is paid for by Medicare and Medicaid. Obesity is associated with nearly 1 in 5 adult deaths in the U.S., nearly as many as smoking. Those facing obesity are 1.5 to 2.5 times more likely to die of a heart disease than those with a healthy body mass index.
“Obesity and its side effects touch every single community across our country, and we must do more to halt this alarming epidemic. As we look to solve this national problem, we must not neglect the historically underserved and lower-income communities that face greater health risks for obesity. I am proud to partner with Rep. McKinley to introduce the Halt Obesity in America Act so that we can bring affordable, healthy foods and safe places for physical activity to more neighborhoods,” said Rep. Jeffries.
“Obesity is a growing public health challenge that leads to preventable deaths and costs Americans hundreds of billions of dollars each year. West Virginia has one of the highest rates of obesity in America, and we need to take common sense steps to address it. By expanding the reach of resources already in place, this bipartisan bill does just that. With one small change in the program, the vast majority of counties in West Virginia would be eligible for additional help,” said Rep. McKinley.
The grants, operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) High Obesity Program, currently fund 15 land grant universities to work with community extension services in counties where more than 40% of adults face obesity. Operational programs have undertaken activities such as improving nutrition guidelines in local agencies and community sites, improving information about food distributions in the media and improving infrastructure to make walking and biking to school safer.
The legislation would direct the CDC to lower the eligible county obesity prevalence from 40% to 35% under the High Obesity Program so that land-grant universities can operate obesity prevention activities in more counties across the country.