NBC: Obesity 'No Longer A Question of Individual Responsibility,' Government Must Act

Touting new recommendations from an Institute of Medicine panel on obesity on Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, science correspondent Robert Bazell proclaimed to viewers: "...a sea change in how we perceive obesity. No longer a question of individual responsibility, but a need to change what's called an 'obesity-promoting environment.' Calling on corporations, government and individuals to act."

At the top of the broadcast, anchor Brian Williams sounded the alarm: "Weight of the nation. An American health crisis out of control, and tonight a reality check on what it might take to turn things around." Later teasing the upcoming story, he declared: "Getting past the question of will power, what's really to blame for a nation of exploding waistlines? Tonight, there is a surprising new answer."

In his report, Bazell proceeded to detail the dictates of the health panel: "...requiring at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity in schools. Public and workplace policies that encourage people of all ages to exercise more. Industry-wide guidelines on marketing food to children, including healthier choices for kids in restaurants and having healthy food available at all public events."

Bazell further pushed the findings: "With the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses approaching $200 billion a year, many on the panel say the nation is ready to act." The panel's vice chair, Dr. M.R.C. Greenwood implored: "It takes a lot of leadership. We need our mayors to step up to the plate, we need our school superintendents to step up to the plate."

Concluding the segment, Bazell lamented the public practicing "bad habits...in an environment that encourages them."

Only NBC saw fit to hype the panel's big government proposals on Tuesday. Neither ABC's World News nor the CBS Evening News reported on the topic.


Here is a full transcript of the May 8 Nightly News segment:

7:00PM ET TEASE:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Weight of the nation. An American health crisis out of control, and tonight a reality check on what it might take to turn things around.

7:12PM ET TEASE:

WILLIAMS: And up next, the weight of the nation. Getting past the question of will power, what's really to blame for a nation of exploding waistlines? Tonight, there is a surprising new answer.

7:14PM ET SEGMENT:

WILLIAMS: Back now with our reporting on what's being called the weight of the nation. Last night we told you about a stunning prediction that by the year 2030, health experts are telling us 42% of Americans will be obese. Today at a conference in Washington, some sweeping strategies for fighting this epidemic. We get more from our chief science correspondent Robert Bazell.

ROBERT BAZELL: Dr. Robin Goland is on the front lines of the obesity epidemic. And sees its consequences every day.

ROBIN GOLAND [COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER]: Our pediatricians are seeing obese 2-year-olds and 4-year-olds, we have 5-year-olds with impaired glucose tolerance. We have 8-year-olds with Type II diabetes. This is a catastrophe.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Most of you are familiar with the shocking statistics.

BAZELL: Today's recommendations from the prestigious Institute of Medicine, signal a sea change in how we perceive obesity. No longer a question of individual responsibility, but a need to change what's called an "obesity-promoting environment." Calling on corporations, government and individuals to act.

Among the panel's recommendations, requiring at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity in schools. Public and workplace policies that encourage people of all ages to exercise more. Industry-wide guidelines on marketing food to children, including healthier choices for kids in restaurants and having healthy food available at all public events.

With the cost of treating obesity-related illnesses approaching $200 billion a year, many on the panel say the nation is ready to act.

M.R.C. GREENWOOD [OBESITY PANEL VICE CHAIR]: It takes a lot of leadership. We need our mayors to step up to the plate, we need our school superintendents to step up to the plate.

BAZELL: With two thirds of Americans overweight and one third obese, the problem has become so critical that it's affecting almost every aspect of our daily lives. There are even worries that airplane seat belts can't protect the many heavy passengers.

JANEY PRATT [MASSACHUSETTS GENERAL HOSPITAL]: We skip meals, we eat too quickly. We eat foods that are high in sugars and carbohydrates, in fats. And we eat more of them.

BAZELL: Bad habits, the panel said, in an environment that encourages them. Robert Bazell, NBC News, New York. 

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC