Sebelius, don't forget cancer

Earlier this week, Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, delivered a speech at the first "Weight of the Nation" conference in Washington, D.C. There she said, "And we heard from a new report that says obesity costs our health system as much as $147 billion a year, a number that has almost doubled since the last time the CDC calculated it in 1998. To put that figure in perspective, the American Cancer Society estimates that all cancers combined cost our health care system $93 billion a year. So ending obesity would save our health care system fifty percent more dollars than curing cancer."I'm surprised that Sebelius would compare "curing cancer" to "ending obesity," as if one is more preferable over the other. While she says over two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight, we also have over 1.4 million diagnosed with cancer in a year and over 11 million survivors. When you add to those numbers friends and family impacted by cancer, that number is staggering. She failed to mention that the ACS also says, "Scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of the 562,340 cancer deaths expected to occur in 2009 will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition and thus could also be prevented." Cancer and obesity are linked, not separate. Instead of isolating one disease, fight them equally and together. No doubt, obesity is a problem in our nation. I know it increases your risk for many diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I also know that it can cause many physical problems as well as psychological. But for me, the "perspective" is clear. Obesity didn't kill my mother; it didn't kill my friends; cancer did. And one way we can fight it is to continue to fund research for a cure.