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HBO’s 'Weight of the Nation' debuts tonight

“The Weight of the Nation,” a Home Box Office documentary series on the nation’s obesity problem that could be a key factor in public policy issues in the years to come, debuts tonight. Both critics of American agriculture and defenders of industrial production should watch it.

The four-part series, subtitled “Confronting America’s Obesity Epidemic,” was produced by HBO with the Institute of Medicine (IOM), in association with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente.

The documentaries include a broad portrait of the obesity problem and discussions of its serious implications for health care costs and how to address the issue. The series is based on an Institute of Medicine report that calls for many changes in American policy and society, including analyzing every aspect of agriculture policy to determine its effect on obesity.

The combination of the IOM report and the HBO series may increase awareness of the obesity issue and the challenges it poses to both individuals and to taxpayers since obesity increases health care costs.

Other IOM reports formed the basis for the changes in the dietary guidelines for Americans and the changes to school meal guidelines under the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act.

HBO is also producing short versions of segments of the programs that are likely to be used by universities and interest groups as they try to raise awareness of the obesity issue.

The Hagstrom Report previewed the four main documentaries and the first episode of “The Weight of the Nation for Kids,” a three-part series which will be shown during the fall back-to-school season. The May 8 edition of the Report contained an analysis of the contents of the programs.

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The HBO series “The Weight of the Nation” debuts tonight with the first two of four parts. (All times are Eastern and Pacific):
  • “Consequences,” Today, 8 p.m. — Examines the scope of the obesity epidemic and explores the serious health consequences of being overweight or obese.
  • “Choices,” Today, 9:10 p.m. — Reveals what science has shown about how to lose weight, maintain weight loss and prevent weight gain.
  • “Children in Crisis,” Tuesday, 8 p.m. — Describes the strong forces at work in our society causing children to consume too many calories and expend too little energy, covers school lunches, physical education, school recess, and the marketing of unhealthy food to children.
  • “Challenges,” Tuesday, 9:10 p.m. — Examines the driving forces causing the obesity epidemic, including agriculture, economics, evolutionary biology, food marketing, racial and socioeconomic disparities, physical inactivity, American food culture, and the food and beverage industry.