More than one-third of adults in the United States and nearly 17% of the nation’s children are now obese, which increases a person’s chance of developing many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, fatty liver disease, and some cancers. In 2008, obesity-related medical costs were an estimated $147 billion.
The NIH fund research to reduce the prevalence of obesity and its health consequences, an investment of $824 million in fiscal year 2010, plus awards totaling $147 million made in the same year through the Recovery Act. This NIH strategic plan, developed by the NIH Obesity Research Task Force, recognizes that eating less and exercising more is easier said than done. Highlighting the crucial role of research in efforts to reduce obesity, the plan emphasizes moving science from laboratory to clinical trials to practical solutions, and is designed to help target efforts and resources in areas most likely to help.
“Obesity has many causes and contributing factors. This plan is a bold blueprint that will encourage the research community to examine the epidemic of obesity from diverse perspectives,” Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH director, stated in a press release. “Through the scientific opportunities outlined in the strategic plan, researchers can work together toward the goals of preventing and treating obesity, to help people lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.”
The task force is co-chaired by Griffin P. Rodgers, MD, director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases; Susan B. Shurin, MD, acting director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; and Alan E. Guttmacher, MD, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. These three institutes, along with the National Cancer Institute, led in the plan’s development.