America’s poor diet has made Covid much worse. Washington doesn’t pay any attention.


Just a few days later, Boris Johnson gave a speech at the Conservative Congress alluding to his Anti-obesity campaign by striking a personal chord: “I had a very common underlying disease: my friends, I was too fat.” The Prime Minister also mentioned that he has lost 26 pounds since then. He went on to outline a vision for the UK’s future that includes a healthier population with more cycling and walking.

In the states, the U.S. government still hasn’t hit the warning about the link between rampant metabolic disease and higher risk. It was never part of the White House news about the virus and the set of guidelines needed to respond to the crisis – something that didn’t change either when President Joe Biden took the reins.

“It’s not central to the discussion at all,” said Dan Glickman, who served as Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration and is now a senior fellow at the bipartisan Policy Center.

Glickman noted that the country’s leading voices on the coronavirus, including Anthony Fauci, are not focusing on the framework and what could be done about it in the long term. Instead, the focus is solely on vaccines that have been shown to be safe and effective.

“They hardly talk about prevention,” said Glickman. “It’s missing. There is a gigantic void in the discussion of how health care relates to Covid and how it relates to disease prevention.”

As the pandemic enters its third year, the link to diet-related diseases and the general vulnerability of the American people is an issue that is still missing at the highest levels of government. The only high-ranking official in the Biden government who routinely speaks on the issue is Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – and he brings it up often.

Vilsack, who is serving in this role for the second time after eight years in the Obama administration, likes to point out in his speeches, for example, that the government is now spending more on the treatment of diabetes than the entire USDA budget, which is around 150 US dollars. Dollar is billion.

In an interview with POLITICO, Vilsack noted that more than half of the $ 380 billion a year spent just on treating cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes is now being financed by the government, among other things through programs like Medicare and Medicaid.

“Ironically, if you could eliminate that cost, you could afford a $ 3.5 trillion Build Back Better bill [without pay-fors],” he said.

“It’s a significant issue that needs to be raised,” said Vilsack. “We’re moving the dials that we can move at the USDA. But I think it takes more than that. I think it takes multiple departments to focus on and multiple executives to say this is an issue that needs some attention. “


Dealing with diet-related diseases was not a priority in the congress either. For example there is a bipartisan bill to require Medicare to cover drugs and more types of specialists to treat obesity. The legislation has been enacted repeatedly since 2013, the year the American Medical Association officially recognized obesity as a disease, but did not gain much acceptance even as major Covid relief bills.

Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School who is a major proponent of the bill, said the pandemic had generated much more interest among lawmakers and staff but had not yet been translated into legislative action.

One of the biggest challenges, she said, is that most people still don’t understand that obesity is a complex disease that cannot be blamed or remedied through personal choices, and often requires multidisciplinary treatment that many people do not have access to .

“We’re not taught about obesity,” Stanford said, referring to the lack of education in medical schools. “If doctors don’t understand obesity, why should the general public do it? Why should politicians? “

Last month the Government Accountability Office published a report on the state of the country’s response to diet-related diseasess, which concludes that there are scattered efforts across the federal government, but there is neither sufficient coordination nor an overarching plan.

“Congress should consider designating a federal agency to direct the development and implementation of a federal strategy for nutrition-related efforts aimed at reducing the risk of chronic health conditions in Americans,” the GAO recommended.

Jerold Mande, a Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health professor and Tufts University fellow who served in senior positions with the FDA and USDA in the HW Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations, said the report should be a belly check. “We’re not serious,” he said. “If you look at the GAO report, you conclude that we are not serious.”

The GAO identified only six “regulatory” measures the government has put in place to combat diet-related diseases.

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