KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obesity Crisis In The Spotlight As FDA Reviews Weight Loss Drugs

The Washington Post explores the obesity epidemic by reporting from Manchester, Ky., which has an obesity rate as high as 52 percent in a nation where the obesity rate is 24 percent. "The residents of this town of 2,100 - 95 miles southeast of Lexington and deep in the Appalachian foothills - indeed appear to celebrate the joys of community closeness. The bake sales, the volunteering. But it's what goes uncelebrated, and even ignored, here that has become Manchester's defining feature: In an increasingly unhealthy country, it is one of the unhealthiest places of all. … In a study of the healthiness of Kentucky's 120 counties, Clay County [where Manchester is] ranked dead last, with 41 percent of the population classified as in poor or fair health" (Haygood, 7/12).

Wisconsin Rapids Tribune: In Wisconsin, "obesity rankings issued this year by Mobilizing Action Toward Community Health or MATCH - a partnership between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute - show that roughly 28 percent of adults in Portage, Wood, Adams and Marathon counties have a body mass index far above what they should for their height and age. And they're not alone." The survey released in late June found that obesity rates rose in 28 states in the nation. "Public health departments in central Wisconsin know that obesity poses a serious threat to the overall health of communities. For the last few years, the departments have been working with community groups, clinics, schools and employers to create programs that encourage residents to eat better and exercise" (Spoto, 7/11).

The FDA in the meantime is slated to begin reviewing three new weight loss drugs this week, The Associated Press reports. "The hope is that the new drugs can succeed where many others have failed: delivering significant weight loss without risky side effects. With U.S. obesity rates nearing 35 percent of the adult population, expectations are high for the first new prescription drug therapies to emerge in more than a decade. Even a modestly effective drug has blockbuster potential." None of the drugs, however, "represents a breakthrough in research" (Perrone, 7/12). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.