U.S. Obesity Task Force Urges Action

Economic incentives to provide inexpensive healthy food and insurance coverage for prevention are among a list of 70 immediate steps that can reduce U.S. childhood obesity, a White House task force recommended in a report on Tuesday.

The report to U.S. President Barack Obama calls for specific actions that can be taken by government and private industry to battle a national health crisis but does not call for new funding or legislation.

The panel suggests economic incentives could help eradicate so-called "food deserts" — urban and rural areas with few, if any, supermarkets and grocery stores. The incentives would improve access to healthy, affordable food.

"Effective policies and tools to guide healthy eating and active living are within our grasp," said the report by the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity. "The next step is to turn these ideas into action."

Obama appointed the interagency panel in February and gave it 90 days to develop recommendations for ending childhood obesity within a generation. He named first lady Michelle Obama to lead the campaign.

Obama has labeled childhood obesity a national health crisis.

The report also says federally funded and private insurance plans should cover services necessary to treat and prevent childhood obesity. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two-thirds of American adults and 15 percent of American children are overweight or obese — a condition that puts them at risk of developing heart disease and diabetes and cancer.

Disease related to excess weight costs the United States about $150 billion per year in direct medical costs.

The task force focuses on four priorities set by Michelle Obama for reversing the obesity trend: good information for parents and caregivers; healthy food in schools; improved access to healthy, affordable foods; and getting children to be more physically active.

The report also notes that Obama's fiscal 2011 budget proposal includes $400 million in community development funds that could help retailers provide healthy food options in low-income communities.