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Sanjay Gupta: Grassroots effort important to combat fat

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta
CNN

(CNN) -- Thursday night, we officially launched Fit Nation. We simply could not believe the response. The buzz in the room was palpable and you felt this tidal wave of anticipation from the students -- all anxious to get something done.

In front of a packed house at Spelman College, we did more than just talk about the problem of overweight and obesity, we heard some real solutions.

The most remarkable thing for me was to be in a position to take the remarkable "real-life" ideas the students were throwing at us and immediately pair them up with a "doer" in the community who will get the program implemented.

These "doers" were everyone from the former surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, to Dominique Wilkins, basketball star and community leader. We also had engaged business leaders from Coca-Cola to Home Depot/Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation. We all agreed that we no longer need to remind people how bad the obesity epidemic is in this country. Let me just say "it is bad."

But instead, we need to think about how to make the ideas that we heard last night -- like a mandatory healthy cooking class for college freshman (did you know how to cook healthy meals as a freshman? I didn't...) -- a national priority.

According to another student, we also need to seriously think about whether a "junk food" tax, like a cigarette tax, is something we should consider in our nation.

Dr. Steve Manoukian of the American Heart Association and Dr. David Satcher, the former surgeon general, seemed to think it might be. I think we are on to something big here, I can just feel it. This is the first time CNN has ever jumped into an advocacy role and as a doctor and a journalist, I couldn't pick a more worthy issue. I want to hear your ideas and hear your commitment along with ours to make the tragedy of obesity and overweight a problem of the past.

Too much food, too little moving

Posted Thursday, March 2, 10:35 a.m. ET

One of the most difficult things I face as a journalist is the feeling of helplessness when I see a tragedy unfolding that I can do nothing about. I felt it as I covered the hurricanes in New Orleans, the tsunami in south Asia and most recently the earthquake in Pakistan. As reporters, we dive into stories to report tragedies, but not to act -- that is not typically our role.

But I'm beginning something that will be different -- my tour called Fit Nation. I am going to travel to college campuses all over the country to advocate about another equally important tragedy -- the problems surrounding obesity and our sedentary lifestyle. We start at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, and other stops in the future include the University of North Carolina, University of Michigan and University of Texas.

I feel passionately about this issue as a journalist for sure, but also as a doctor and a parent. The problem of "eating too much and moving too little" is truly killing America's dreams and shortening our lives.

In fact, the generation of children today could have a shorter life span than their parents. Wow -- all the advancements we have made in science and medicine could be completely eliminated because of this one problem.

The most striking thing is that it is fixable. The alarm bells are ringing and we need to pay attention and fix the problem of overweight and obesity in our country.

I realized that I can have a great impact everyday on television, but this problem screamed out for more. So, I am stepping off the television screen and traveling the country starting a grassroots effort that I believe will make the United States better.

We picked college campuses because throughout history, some of society's very best changes were born on a college campus. College students can be the best and brightest advocates, and I hope I can inspire many of them to create a more fit nation.

The only thing we might be saving is our own lives. I hope you follow along, give me your ideas. Everybody needs to do their part -- I pledge to you that here at CNN, we will do ours.

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