Introduction of the Promoting Healthier Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: May 10, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. NORTON. Madam Speaker, I rise to introduce the Promoting Healthier Lifelong Improvements in Food and Exercise Act of 2022, or the LIFE Act, which would authorize a national initiative to combat a major health problem in the United States that cannot be remedied through the health care system alone. Increasing rates of overweight and obesity are found among Americans of every age, race and major demographic group, and threaten the health of Americans like no other condition or disease. In fact, the key to eliminating many of the most serious health conditions is not only to reduce overweight and obesity, but also to encourage exercise of all kinds.

This bill would provide $25 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a coordinated national effort to reverse increasingly sedentary lifestyles and diets that are high in fat and sugar. Specifically, this bill would require the CDC to establish the first national strategy to combat the overweight and obesity epidemic. The CDC, either directly or through grants to states and local organizations, would train health professionals to recognize the signs of overweight and obesity early in order to educate Americans about proper nutrition and regular exercise; conduct public education campaigns about how to recognize and address overweight and obesity; and develop intervention strategies for use in everyday life, such as in the workplace and community settings.

The National Survey of Children's Health found that 16.2 percent of children ages 10 to 17 had obesity in 2019-2020. The CDC National Center for Health Statistics reports that Type 2 Diabetes, once considered an adult disease, is now widespread among children. The rising cost of the health care system, including insurance premiums, reflects this epidemic. Today, chronic diseases, many of which are caused or exacerbated by overweight and obesity, account for 70 percent of all deaths in the U.S. and 75 percent of U.S. medical care costs, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. A focused national health initiative would provide guidance to state and local governments to engage in similar programs.

A national focus could lead to changes, such as greater participation in high school physical education classes, which dropped from 42 percent in 1991 to 23 percent in 2020, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Changes in nutrition are equally critical because more than half of all young people consume too much fat, a factor in the increase of overweight youth. Data also show an increase in unhealthy eating habits for adults and no change in physical activity.

To cite an example of the need for action, the District of Columbia is one of the fittest cities in the U.S., according to a 2019 study by the American College of Sports Medicine, yet, even here, obesity continues to be a severe problem. Approximately one-fifth of District residents are considered obese. Most of the obesity epidemic is exercise- and food-related.

I urge support for this important bill to mobilize the country before entirely preventable health conditions, which often begin in childhood, overwhelm the Nation's health care system.

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