The senators - Bill Frist, Jeff Bingaman and Christopher Dodd - introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at reducing obesity, one of America's fastest growing health problems, especially among children.
"Obesity is, for the most part, preventable," said Frist, R-Tenn. "There is no single solution, but better information, improved nutrition and greater opportunities for physical activity will guarantee progress."
To provide those resources, the three senators are proposing spending as much as $217 million next year and additional money in future years on a variety of programs to encourage proper nutrition and increased physical activity.
The money would go to the Institutes of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services to identify risk factors, analyze government food assistance programs and work with state governments on nutrition and exercise programs.
"Obesity is our nation's fastest rising public health problem," said Bingaman, D-N.M. "As a nation, we can no longer afford to ignore the escalating costs associated with obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, such as physical inactivity and poor dietary habits."
Obesity is a factor in heart disease, diabetes and cancer. According to statistics cited by the senators, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults and 13 percent of children are overweight. An estimated 300,000 deaths per year are associated with obesity. There are twice as many overweight children and three times as many overweight adolescents as there were 30 years ago.
Dodd, D-Conn., said a failure to address the problem of obesity would endanger more and more children.