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This background paper seeks to clarify the nature and causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States and provides an overview of the associated economic and health costs. The paper summarizes existing federal programs and policies that address obesity and examines new and emerging policy strategies to battle the bulging American silhouette. Topics explored include population-based prevention, federal food- and nutrition-assistance programs, Medicare and Medicaid payment policies, school health initiatives, and publicly funded biomedical research.

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