First lady warns business of price of obesity

| 17/03/2011

( Michelle Obama has told city and community leaders that if they do not take steps to tackle the nation’s childhood-obesity epidemic they risk hampering their communities’ economic viability. Obama has long pushed curbing childhood obesity as a critical health issue, but with her speech before the National League of Cities conference, the first lady made her case in dollars and cents. “Make no mistake about it, when we talk about childhood obesity we’re talking about the workforce you’re trying to build,” Obama told the local leaders at their annual conference. “We’re talking about the businesses you’re trying to attract.”

A recent study by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation found that businesses are reluctant to locate where the people — particularly young people — are unhealthy. The study found that business leaders and investors are wary of communities with high obesity rates because they fear the low productivity caused by absenteeism and high health care costs.

The issue has become more urgent as America’s waistline grows. Nearly one-third of children are considered obese, and the overall U.S. obesity rate has tripled over the past 30 years.

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