Been Here Before?
The obesity problem has several parallels: One example of a similar program in the NIH is the Office of AIDS Research (OAR), established in 1988. A look at their annual strategic plans shows a route much like that of the Obesity Task Force—the OAR weaves together basic research, therapeutics, clinical outcomes, and epidemiology.
As with HIV/AIDS, obesity drew in federal, state, and local resources to combat a rapidly spreading epidemic with both behavioral and medical interventions. This raises another similar epidemic: smoking and lung cancer.
For all three, even the initial interventions were similar: "Don't do that," where "that" refers to either unprotected sex and intravenous drugs, cigarettes, or greasy, sugary foods and a sedentary lifestyle. It took a full thirty years after the initial 1964 quit-smoking advisory to halve the per-capita tobacco consumption rate. Unfortunately, in spite of other initiatives, taxes, and interventions, there has not been much further progress.
If smoking and HIV are any indication, obesity and its associated illnesses will persist at a significantly steady-state level even after numerous public interventions. That steady state will remain until research comes up with a solution independent of behavior modification—like a cure, a vaccine, a way to clean lungs.
Perhaps, for obesity, that might be a gut symbiote that detects excessive blood sugar or some obesity marker and shuts down absorption of sugars and fats in response. If AIDS is any indication, it will be years before this research produces any major treatments, and the big cure is even further out.
Obesity is here to stay until someone comes up with a permanent, human nature-proof treatment for it. In the meantime, behavioral treatments may save an entire generation from eating itself to death. So, pass the celery!