January 31, 2011
Remarks as prepared for delivery
Thank you Secretary Vilsack, it is a pleasure to join you this morning. You and your team at USDA have been terrific partners.
From our collaboration on food safety to our work together on child nutrition to our efforts enrolling more eligible kids in the Children’s Health Insurance Program -- our partnership with USDA has been invaluable to the work we do every day at the Department of Health and Human Services.
I also want to echo Secretary Vilsack’s thanks to our expert advisory committee -- as well as Surgeon General Regina Bengamin, Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh -- and all the dedicated public servants who made this morning’s announcement possible and made certain that the Guidelines we’re releasing today reflect the latest and best research and science.
Our mission at HHS is to improve the health and well-being of every American. And we recognize that to achieve this goal, we can’t just focus on what happens in hospitals and doctors’ offices.
We also need to pay attention to the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the lifestyles we lead.
The obesity epidemic that Secretary Vilsack described carries steep costs. Obesity brings a far higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers. Chronic diseases like these account for 7 in 10 deaths in America and three quarters of our nation’s health care costs.
These costs weigh heavily on local businesses and state budgets -- but also on our ability to grow and innovate as a nation.
That’s why this Administration has launched a broad agenda to help Americans get healthy, stay well and thrive.
And one of the most important things we can do when it comes to the nation’s health is provide clear and simple information based on the latest science and research so the American people can make the choices that are best for them and their families.
That’s what the newest edition of the Dietary Guidelines is all about.
It represents concrete steps that families can incorporate into their everyday lives to improve their overall health and well-being.
Steps like controlling your calorie intake.
Increasing the calories you burn by moving more and sitting less.
Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
And eating less sodium, sugar, and saturated fats.
If we want to become a healthier, stronger, more competitiive country, we need to give the American people the tools to make healthy choices.
And today’s guidelines are of one of the most direct and powerful tools we can provide.
But we also know there are other obstacles to living a healthy lifestyle.
When you have a kid tugging on your arm, you don’t always have time to read the nutrition facts on every box of cereal or snacks.
And when you go out to eat, it’s not always convenient to visit the restaurant’s website before you order to find the nutritional information.
So we’re taking steps to make healthier choices easier.
We’re working with the food industry to improve and standardize nutrition labeling on the front of packaging, so you don’t have take a magnifying glass and calculator with you every time you go to the grocery store.
And as part of the Affordable Care Act passed last year, we’re making sure that many restaurants put calorie information right there on the menu where customers can make easy comparisons.
Now in addition to increasing access to information, the health care law is also reducing barriers to critical preventive care for millions of Americans.
So more people can get key screenings at no cost to find out if they have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, then work with their doctor to develop a diet that’s right for them.
Of course, even when you have the best information and a clear plan, translating it into good health can still be a challenge.
When you have to walk two miles in some neighborhoods to get fresh produce at the nearest supermarket but only half a block to get a bag of chips at the corner store, it’s hard to eat nutritious meals.
When it’s not safe to play outside, it’s hard for our kids to get exercise.
So under the Recovery Act, we’ve made historic investments to promote wellness and reduce chronic disease in cities across the country -- from serving healthier school lunches to designing more walkable neighborhoods.
What all these examples have in common is an understanding that underneath all the statistics about our health care system are human beings.
They’re children, and families, and communities who almost always want to do the healthy thing – to eat the right diet, to exercise more, to follow their doctor’s instructions.
But these are not always the easy things to do – especially when you’re not sure exactly what the right diet looks like.
With this newest edition of the Dietary Guidelines, we’re putting that information in people’s hands.
That’s going to make us a healthier country, a more productive country, and a more competitive country.