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Monday, May 19, 2003

Conference to Explore Use of Law to Combat Obesity Epidemic, Public Health

BOSTON -- How can the legal world contribute to the public health goal
of combating the obesity epidemic? The Public Health Advocacy Institute
today announced an in-depth conference in June to examine this urgent

"Legal Approaches to the Obesity Epidemic" will be held at
Northeastern University School of Law on June 21-23. Conference
registration information is available at

Featuring speakers working in government, academics, and the front
lines of public health, the Conference will include a series of panel
discussions on obesity, the current food environment, and litigation and
regulatory approaches to changing that environment to benefit the
nation's health. Keynoting the Conference will be Marion Nestle, author
of "Food Politics."

"From a public health standpoint there is no problem more pressing
than the mushrooming of obesity in this country," PHAI's chairman, Dr.
Anthony Robbins, said in announcing the Conference. "This epidemic poses
a first-order health threat to the population, particularly young people
whose overweight predisposes them to lifetimes of needless illness.
Obesity contributes to severe health impairments -heart disease, type 2
diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension, plus colon and many other
cancers - and death, with annual health care costs approaching $100
billion a year."

According to PHAI board member Richard Daynard, who directs the
Tobacco Product Liability Project at Northeastern University School of
Law and will co-chair the Conference, "Years of experience with the
successes and failures of strategies to counteract tobacco and product
hazards through litigation, regulation and statutory approaches have
produced powerful lessons that must not be ignored and need to be
thoroughly assessed as the campaign against obesity is undertaken. This
Conference marks the beginning of that assessment."

By bringing together public health and law professionals, the
Conference is expected to make a unique contribution to the early
development of effective legal strategies to achieve an urgent public
health objective. In addition to Nestle, Robbins and Daynard, the list
of speakers includes Prof. Kelly Brownell, Yale University; Prof. John
George Washington University; Philip James, chairman of the
International Obesity Task Force; Michael Jacobson, executive director,
Center for Science in the Public Interest; Sean Faircloth, member, Maine
House of Representatives; Prof. Jon Hanson, Harvard Law School; Prof.
Ross Petty, Babson College; Prof. James Hyde, Tufts School of Medicine,
and Ben Kelley, executive director of PHAI. Their interests and
expertise cut across a wide range of marketing, law, advocacy and public
policy issues bearing on the conference theme.

"Had this kind of foundation for action been established at the outset
of the campaigns against tobacco and other hazardous products," Dr.
Robbins noted, "it is likely that their goals of reducing death and
disability would have been realized faster and more effectively. Legal
and public health professionals can avoid mistakes of the past by
collaborating on the obesity problem from the outset. This Conference
will enable that collaboration."

((AScribe - The Public Interest Newswire /