Physical Activity to Prevent Overweight and Obesity: What Has the 110th Congress Accomplished? What We Need to Tell the 111th Congress!

By Auxter, David A.; Arnhold, Robert W. | Palaestra, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Physical Activity to Prevent Overweight and Obesity: What Has the 110th Congress Accomplished? What We Need to Tell the 111th Congress!


Auxter, David A., Arnhold, Robert W., Palaestra


The 110th Congress of the United States has identified overweight and obesity as national priorities through extensive fact-finding. The 110th Congress completed its two-year term in January, 2009. Many legislative initiatives have been proposed based on facts describing successful prevention strategies for overweight and obesity. At least 20 separate pieces of legislation sponsored by the 110th Congress promoted physical activity associated with overweight and obesity, and stressed the need for increased physical activity to prevent and ameliorate overweight and obesity in subsequent legislative action. Special attention was given to overweight and obesity of persons with disabilities.

Preliminary Results

Considerable action was taken by the 110th Congress to confront overweight and obesity in its attempt to increase physical activity amongst citizens within America. Some Congressional approaches encourage individuals to become more physically active and increase physical activity. This can be accomplished through passage of legislative resolutions and guidelines, as well as proposals for personnel training within the health professions. The latter including training of physical education teachers, identifying model demonstration programs, promoting community play indexes, and developing physical education and physical activity programs specially designed for people with disabilities.

Government functions, collectively, are inadequate to deal with physical activity aimed at reducing obesity. What are needed are effective grassroots advocacy programs, incorporating community-based physically active lifestyle changing activities in order to make lasting behavior changes. Thus, a task force was developed, composed of employees from no less than six federal departments, charged with establishing a government-wide strategy aimed at coordinating federal efforts in preventing and reducing childhood overweight and obesity.

What the 100th Congress Said About Preventing Overweight and Obesity

The 110th Congress recognized obesity as a critical public health problem (H.R. 2677, 2007) and acknowledged there is an epidemic of obesity in America (H.R. 3503, 2007). In addition, the Surgeon General listed the treatment and prevention of obesity as a national priority (H.R. 2677, 2007). National data show that 50% to 80% of adults in the United States, age 20 years or older are overweight (S. 1342, 2007; H.R. 1163, 2007; H.R. 2633, 2007; H.R. 2677, 2007: H.R. 3503, 2007), and one out of every three children and youths in the United States is overweight or obese (S. 2066, 2007). The facts show clearly people with disabilities are disproportionately overweight or obese and need special attention--the purpose of this segment of Legislative Update.

Most legislative initiatives presented by the 110th Congress, addressing physical activity related to obesity do not specifically reference disability. However, inclusion of people with disabilities is implicit within legislation. Anti-discrimination provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (2004) provide for inclusion of persons with disabilities within federal policies. Advocacy efforts may be used to include special language to assure inclusion of persons with disabilities.

Purpose and Procedures

The purpose of this review was to assess Congressional fact-finding and action of the 110th Congress to formulate legislation addressing obesity through physical activity with focus on people with disabilities. Twenty-five pieces of legislation were relevant to the promotion of physical activity associated with overweight and obesity. These legislative pieces were evaluated for facts relevant to the human and economic consequences of physical inactivity and subsequent initiatives.

The Consequences of Physical Inactivity

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Physical Activity to Prevent Overweight and Obesity: What Has the 110th Congress Accomplished? What We Need to Tell the 111th Congress!
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