Obesity growth rates slow

But what does it mean?

Obesity growth rates are finally slowing in certain U.S. cities.
(Image credit: ThinkStock/Photodisc)

Rarely has a small decline in the rate of an increase caused so much commotion. But the news, confirmed this past week, that obesity rates are not growing in certain cities, is an essential and necessary moment for public policy. The dirty little secret among obesity researchers is that many of them will tell you in private that no intervention short of the type of government intrusiveness that is intolerable for most Americans would actually have an impact on the problem. In that, they sound a lot like climate change researchers who despair that the damage done so far to the mechanisms of climate is beyond repair and that mitigation of future problems, rather than anything prophylactic, is called for.

So what's working? Nothing specifically but everything together. Obesity is defined in so many ways on so many levels; there is a physiological definition, a psychological definition, a social definition, and a systems biology definition, all describing the same thing but using different metrics to measure it and figure out what to do about it. On each level, there has been progress. Individual medical interventions, ranging from hormone therapy to bariatric surgery, are much more common and more effective. Support for obese people of all ages extends from Medicare to online support groups.

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Marc Ambinder

Marc Ambinder is TheWeek.com's editor-at-large. He is the author, with D.B. Grady, of The Command and Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry. Marc is also a contributing editor for The Atlantic and GQ. Formerly, he served as White House correspondent for National Journal, chief political consultant for CBS News, and politics editor at The Atlantic. Marc is a 2001 graduate of Harvard. He is married to Michael Park, a corporate strategy consultant, and lives in Los Angeles.