Americans are truly getting fatter. Obesity is now one of our country’s most pressing health issues with more than two-thirds of U.S. adults age 20 and over being either overweight or obese. Equally staggering is the fact that nearly one-third of our nation’s children and adolescents age 2 to 19 are also overweight or obese. Obesity-related health costs are around $147 billion annually. The only good news in all of this is that the award-winning HBO is making its multipart documentary series on this topic, The Weight of the Nation, available for free to everyone at their website hbo.com/theweightofthenation.
The docuseries kicks off tonight on HBO at 8pm ET/PT with the episode “Consequences,” immediately followed by “Choices” at 9:10pm ET/PT; and continues on Tuesday, May 15 with “Children in Crisis” at 8pmET/PT followed by “Challenges” at 9:10pm ET/PT. In addition, the first of the three-part series “The Weight of the Nation for Kids: The Great Cafeteria Takeover” debuts Wednesday, May 16 at 7pm. The films will air on HBO, HBO On Demand, HBO Go and will be available to stream free of charge on HBO.com.
The series aims to shed light on the growing obesity epidemic and the economic and social impact associated with it. “It costs $1,400 more a year to care for someone who is obese,” says Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re going to face steadily increasing health care costs, as well as more lives lost to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many cancers and other complications from obesity.”
While the films demonstrate the severity of obesity, they also highlight the groundwork for the societal transformation that is needed to slow and eventually reverse its prevalence and bring our nation to a healthier weight. “If we don’t succeed in turning this epidemic around, we are going to face, for the first time in our history, a situation where our children are going to live shorter lives than we do,” says NIH director Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD.
That said, the initiative extends far beyond just the docuseries. It’s a major public awareness campaign that encourages people to take action and provides the framework to do so. The project is a collaboration between many including HBO, the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente. In addition to the films, there’s been a nationwide dissemination of screening kits (14 films and discussion guides in English and Spanish) to more than 40,000 community-based organizations (including libraries, schools, doctor’s offices and public health departments), as well as a marketing campaign focused on providing healthy options at school, an online and social media presence, and a book published by St. Martin’s Press. The aforementioned kits are also available to download at the initiatives campaign website – hbo.com/theweightofthenation. Plus, the “Take Action” section of the site provides resources for a healthier life including details on 75 simple steps people can take to improve their health, pledge statements that ask participants to commit to curbing obesity by participating in acts from planting a garden to walking more to eating a healthy breakfast.
This is an excellent wake up call that not only details the facts but provides the solutions.