In 40 years, the U.S. population has gone from 40% overweight to 68% overweight. Half of American adults are dangerously obese, leading to many chronic conditions and deadly (and expensive) diseases.Scientists and doctors generally agree the obesity epidemic is behavioral in nature (not the result of a pathogen).
The key drivers are our choices of food and activity, but multiple additional factors also play a role — from family dynamics to cultural roots, stress, economics, lifestyle and many more. Unlike smoking or drinking, eating is not optional. How can Americans move to healthier lifestyles — or, if we can’t change these trends, how can the healthcare system cope with the results?
Meet the Challenge Team
The Challenge Team Members are leaders in their fields and reflect multi-disciplinary, passionate and thoughtful perspectives for the Challenge they represent.
Challenge Team members participate in the discussion held by the Great Challenges community, and will be creating responses to questions submitted by the community on the discussion tab.
Prior to his appointment as Commissioner, Auerbach had been the Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission for 9 years. He had previously worked at the State Health Department for a decade, first as the Chief of Staff and later as an Assistant Commissioner overseeing the HIV/AIDS Bureau.
I approach the challenge of adult obesity from the perspective of a state public health official as well as a member of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). As such, I am I interested in gathering data that sheds light on the problem (e.g.who is most affected and why), in convening the many interested governmental and nongovernmental groups, in piloting new programs based on the best evidence of efficacy, and in considering the policies that will be effective across all levels of public health, within and outside of the health sector.
Daniel Callahan is a Research Scholar and President Emeritus of The Hastings Center. His work over the years has focused on ethical and policy issues of medicine and biology. A philosopher by training (Ph.D., Harvard), he has in recent years focused on health care reform, particularly on issues of rationing and self-determination. He is the author and editor of 44 books and 600 articles.
I bring to the problem of obesity a long-standing interest in those large scale problems that require changing the values, practices, and behavior of large groups or even nations, that have come to be thought hazardous to health. Inevitably, such problems involve scientific and policy disagreements, ideological and political clashes, and divided public opinion. Obesity is influenced by the way we live our lives, often deeply embedded in our culture, and that is why it is a hard problem to deal with.
Christine Ferguson, J.D., a leading obesity researcher has been recognized as one of the most influential health policymakers. She serves as a director on the board of Blue Cross Blue Shield of RI and on two Institute of Medicine boards: Children, you and families; and health sciences policy standing committee on family planning. Previously, she served as Commissioner of Public health in Massachusetts, and from 1995 to 2001, she ran the Rhode Island Department of Human Services.
Dr. Kahan is a physician trained in both clinical medicine and public health. He is board-certified in Preventive Medicine, and his clinical practice specializes in weight management and obesity medicine. He serves as Director of the National Center for Weight and Wellness.
In addition to his clinical practice, Dr. Kahan works as a public health physician specializing in obesity. He has been involved in numerous national and local initiatives pertaining to obesity, nutrition, and chronic disease prevention, and he has worked with Federal, state, and local governments, the National Institutes of Health, and several health advocacy groups.
Joe Nadglowski is President & CEO of the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC), a non-profit organization formed in 2005 dedicated to elevating and empowering those affected by obesity through education, advocacy and support. A frequent speaker and author, Mr. Nadglowski has nearly 20 years of experience working in patient advocacy, public policy and education. He is a graduate of the University of Florida. In addition, Joe is the Executive Director of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) Foundation, through a partnership between the OAC and the ASMBS Foundation. Through this partnership, the OAC and ASMBS Foundation aim to increase awareness and education on obesity and its treatments by bringing National attention to the cause through the annual Walk from Obesity.
Every day we are bombarded by statistics about obesity, from prevalence to healthcare costs. My hope is that my participation will allow a discussion of not only the statistical and societal impact of obesity, but also the personal impact on quality of health and life. From both my own and family experience, as well as my interaction with the Obesity Action Coalition’s tens of thousands of members who are personally affected by obesity, I hope to raise awareness of the difficulties of living with obesity, the challenge of treating obesity, access to appropriate evidence-based care, weight bias and more.
Dr. Rebecca Puhl is Director of Research at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. She is a Senior Research Scientist and is responsible for identifying and coordinating research and policy efforts aimed at reducing weight bias and improving the quality of life of children and adults affected by obesity.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is the President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, a Washington, DC-based strategic social change firm that helps make policy work for people, communities and the environment, and serves as the executive director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). She is also the founder of GlobalPolicy.tv, a web-based public affairs platform that explores important issues related to public policy, politics, and popular culture.
Maya’s expertise includes health, social insurance, income security, education, women’s issues and youth civic participation. She is the board chair of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and serves on the board of the National Association of Counties. Maya is also a member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.
A former adjunct professor in the Women in Politics Institute at American University, Maya has also served as the vice president of Research and Programs at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), senior resident scholar at the National Urban League, chief of staff to Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY), professional staff on the House Ways and Means Committee, and as a CBCF legislative fellow in the office of Congressman Melvin Watt (D-NC).
Too many of us in communities of color have family members who suffer from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes or heart disease. Working on Capitol Hill and within national policy organizations has demonstrated the power public policy has in creating meaningful, measurable and lasting improvements to the quality of life for people and communities. As the executive director of Leadership for Healthy Communities, I work with state and local policy makers to support their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods.
Challenge Team Perspectives
We selected 10 questions out of the many submitted by our Great Challenges Community, to be addressed by each of our Team members.
See their responses and perspectives, below.
Question 1Being underweight can be unhealthy, too. Is there a risk of being overzealous in our anti-obesity efforts and actually creating new health problems?
Select a Question to View The Challenge Team's Responses
The following questions were submitted by the TEDMED Community and selected for further discussion. The Team Members have weighed in on each, select below to see their responses:
John M. Auerbach, MBA, Dan Callahan, PhD, Christine Ferguson, JD, Scott Kahan, MD, MPH, Joe Nadglowski, Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Maya Rockeymoore PhDMeet the Team