As Americans get fatter, the US Institute of Medicine takes action

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 09 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3276

Re: As Americans get fatter, the US Institute of Medicine takes action

In recent years, several campaigns and prevention programs have been launched with the aim of fighting obesity, an alarming and rapidly increasingly health and social problem affecting millions of adults and children in the World, responsible for a significant increase in morbidity, mortality and health costs. US and UK Governments are particularly involved in these activities as obesity has reached endemic proportions in these countries, especially among children1. A striking example is the ambitious program “Let’s Move”, announced by the US President’s wife, Mrs. Obama, in February 2010, aimed to increase physical activity and consumption of healthier food among children through the support of government departments, medical organizations, state and local governments, non-profit and profit making sponsors, and leading sports and movie stars (i.e. the song "Move Your Body" by Beyoncé Knowles, with also a Spanish version for Latin-American communities)2.

From the 1930s, stamps have traditionally been used to improve people awareness towards public health problems (i.e infections like tuberculosis, HIV or malaria; work-related injuries; cigarette smoking; iodine deficiency; cancer; cardiovascular diseases and diabetes)3. Indeed, stamps, first day covers and many semi-postal stamps (sometimes called “charity stamps” are stamps sold at a premium over the postal value in order to raise funds by the postal authority for particular purposes) have been specifically issued for governmental public health initiatives.

Thanks to its widespread and cost-effectiveness, philately still appears an extremely valid tool to be used in association with other more modern information media to increase people awareness even towards obesity prevention and control. To date several stamps on the importance of a healthy and active life to prevent cardiovascular disorders have been issued, but none has been specifically dedicated to obesity. We strongly believe that the creation of an “Obesity Stamp Day”, involving as much as possible countries in the Western World and characterized by dedicated emissions and first-day covers, could be a strongly valuable initiative for fund-raising and increase of obesity awareness, become finally a sort of tradition for postal authorities and philatelists, like the renowned Switzerland’s “Pro Juventute” series (whose centenary occurs this year).

1. Institute of Medicine. Accelerating progress in obesity prevention: solving the weight of the nation. IOM, 2012.
2. Tanne JH. Michelle Obama launches programme to combat US childhood obesity. BMJ. 2010 Feb 15;340:c948. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c948.
3. Shulman ST. Obesity: a real epidemic. Pediatr Ann. 2006 Nov;35(11):773-4

Competing interests: No competing interests

07 January 2013
Federica Guaraldi
Endocrinology Fellow
Davide Gori
Azienda Ospedaliera Citta' della Salute e della Scienza, University of Turin
Corso Dogliotti 14, 10126, Turin