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DeLauro, Ryan Release GAO Report Revealing Lack of Federal Strategy to Address Nutrition Crisis

September 20, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Ryan (D-OH-13) released a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report requested in June 2018 to examine food policy and how it connects to public health. The GAO report found that a cohesive strategy across government agencies could help to improve American’s diets and prevent chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

“This GAO report highlights the need to reimagine and reorganize our efforts to address diet-related disease,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the dangers of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, all of which could be prevented with a healthy diet and other behaviors like exercise. Numerous federal agencies play a role in addressing diet and its link to chronic health conditions and increased risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, but our scattershot approach to addressing this nutrition crisis leaves gaps in key scientific research. The lack of cooperation and cohesion across agencies is ineffective, deadly, and costly and must be addressed.”

“The rise in chronic diseases and conditions across the United States is alarming. It not only negatively impacts a person’s lifestyle, but takes a toll on our nation’s economy and health care system. Our country needs to get healthier and that can start by examining what we put on our plates,” said Congressman Tim Ryan. “This report will help give us a better understanding of how to address these health challenges and reduce the costs and risks of diet-related chronic disease. It is time for Congress to step up and combat these skyrocketing health issues with a comprehensive food policy.”

The GAO report, “CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS: Federal Strategy Needed to Coordinate Diet-Related Efforts,” points out:

  • Forty-two percent of adults had obesity—or approximately 100 million U.S. adults, with diet-related diseases of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes counting for half of the annual deaths in the United States.
  • Government spending, including Medicare and Medicaid, to treat cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes accounted for 54 percent of the $383.6 billion in health care spending.
  • Twenty-one federal agencies have 200 efforts related to diet but have not effectively managed fragmentation of efforts or the potential for overlap and duplication despite establishing interagency groups.
  • A federal strategy for diet-related efforts could provide sustained leadership and result in improved, cost-effective outcomes for reducing Americans' risk of diet-related chronic health conditions.

The report also highlights that those with diet-related diseases are 12 times more likely to die of COVID-19 than those without diet-related diseases. These conditions also impact the economy and military eligibility. Government spending on diet-related disease increased 30 percent from 2009 to 2018. Thirty percent of young people do not qualify for military service because of their weight.

As leaders on the House Appropriations Committee, DeLauro and Ryan are committed to working with their colleagues to create a strategy to coordinate federal, diet-related efforts that aim to reduce Americans’ risk of chronic health conditions.