From the CEO

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual hospital costs related to childhood and adolescent obesity have tripled over the last two decades. During the same period, obesity rates have more than doubled among adults. In all, there are more than 60 million obese adults in America today and around 5 million obese youth. These people are more likely to suffer from a multitude of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and some forms of cancer.

There's no question that Americans are facing a health crisis, and as psychologists we have the expertise and responsibility to help the nation solve it. After all, many cases of obesity are, at their root, behavioral health problems, and our society encourages unhealthy behaviors through the proliferation of high-fat and high-calorie food and drink and the marketing of such products.

APA is involved in several efforts that lend psychologists' expertise to the obesity crisis. One I'm particularly excited about is APA's involvement with the YMCA's "Activate America" campaign. APA's Practice, Science and Public Interest directorates, as well as Div. 42 (Independent Practice) will develop educational workshops for parents, which will be presented by psychologists. An initial workshop on family connectedness and healthy eating will be piloted at YMCAs in Silver Spring, Md., and Long Beach, Calif. Ultimately, the program will spread to YMCAs across the country.

The nation's 2,617 YMCAs have an enormous reach. As the largest provider of child care in this country, they have more than 20 million members and serve more than 8,500 communities and neighborhoods from more than 10,000 program sites. Partnering with the National Council of YMCAs of the USA provides APA with an incredible opportunity to reach a large audience and to inform the public on psychology's role in addressing lifestyle and behavior issues associated with obesity.

We are also sharing our knowledge with policymakers who are tackling the national obesity epidemic. In coordination with APA's Committee on Children, Youth and Families, Public Interest Government Relations staff have developed fact sheets and policy recommendations on the prevention of youth obesity and disordered eating, which APA staff will use in meetings with congressional offices and committees. We are working to prevent youth obesity and disordered eating by targeting: poor nutrition and physical inactivity; body dissatisfaction; teasing and weight stigmatization; targeted marketing to children; home environment; and cultural and socioeconomic factors. Related to this, Public Interest Government Relations staff recently submitted testimony to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Children and Families for the July 23 hearing, "Childhood Obesity: The Declining Health of America's Next Generation."

Here at APA headquarters, we have designated health and well-being as one of our 10 core values for employees. To help staff reap the benefits of physical activity, we have an on-site exercise room and offer fee-based yoga and Pilates classes at lunchtime. In addition, APA staff member Joslyn Smith recently led a brown-bag discussion on the "Health at Every Size" approach to wellness. Staff interest following this presentation led to the formation of a committee to promote a healthful work environment. APA staff also have access to a variety of healthy-living resources through our health insurance company as well as an employee-assistance program.

As a health psychologist, I am deeply concerned about the obesity epidemic. But it is good to know that our profession is at the forefront of helping to solve this health crisis.