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Satcher: Obesity almost as bad as smoking

Satcher: Obesity almost as bad as smoking

Obesity is reaching "epidemic proportions" in the United States, Surgeon General David Satcher said Thursday, and could soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.

More than 61 percent of adults and 14 percent of adolescents are affected by obesity and some 300,000 die each year from health problems directly related to obesity, Satcher noted.

He released a "call to action" to battle a condition he has said should be treated as a disease.

However, obesity is not just something that affects the individual, Satcher said. Obesity costs the United States $117 billion per year.

A report by the U.S. Surgeon General suggests obesity is costing us financially. CNN's Sanjay Gupta reports (December 13)

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Satcher said his call to action will seek to promote the recognition of obesity as a health problem and help Americans learn how to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. In addition, Satcher said programs to treat obesity and encourage people to change their eating and exercise habits will be implemented.

Several community-based programs have already begun to carry out some of Satcher's recommendations.

The Atlanta-based home improvement chain, Home Depot, has sponsored sporting events and has donated funds to help build recreational facilities in communities where it has stores.

Other businesses and foundations are also working to target African-American and American Indian communities to provide health screenings, referrals, monitoring and education programs.

Satcher said he hopes by categorizing obesity as a disease, more research dollars will be dedicated to eradicating the condition.

-- CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta contributed to this report


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