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NCI, Partners Lauded for Improving Nation's Health

By LaTonya Kittles

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, and NCI director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach were among a host of dignitaries, distinguished speakers and guests at the inaugural meeting of the 5 A Day for Better Health National Partnership, held Apr. 25-27 in Washington, D.C.

The meeting, attended by more than 300 people from across the country, marked the first time that all of the partners, advocates and stakeholders of the 5 A Day National Partnership gathered together. Founded in 1991 as a partnership between NCI and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, the 5 A Day Program aims to increase Americans' consumption of fruits and vegetables to 5 to 9 servings a day to promote good health and to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity and other diseases.

"Our National Cancer Institute is leading the 5 A Day Partnership and they're doing a really great job," said Thompson. "It's my pleasure to be here today to welcome our new partners and I'm happy that so many of you have dedicated yourselves to helping us promote the largest nutrition education initiative in the world, because all Americans will benefit from your leadership and commitment."

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (l) and NCI director Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach addressed the 5 A Day National Partnership.

NCI, the lead federal agency and health authority for the program, and its private-sector partner, the Produce for Better Health Foundation, are joined by USDA, CDC, the American Cancer Society, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity, the Produce Marketing Association, and the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.

"Five A Day is a strong partnership, and everyone here at USDA is proud to work with all of our partners on this initiative that is so important to consumers throughout America," said Veneman. "We're also proud to work with all the partners in the industry, in the states, and everyone who is here today, because you are the ones who are making the difference in the lives of so many people."

Von Eschenbach discussed the nation's health and the complex economic, social and political problems associated with the ravaging effects of cancer and other diseases. "You are here representing a multidisciplinary group that will help build a solution to the problem," he said. He went on to discuss the critical role that fruits and vegetables and the 5 A Day program play in prevention.

Both Veneman and Thompson discussed the burden of overweight and obesity in America and detailed how addressing this health concern is a high priority of HHS and USDA. "Over 60 percent of Americans today face the challenge of overweight and obesity, and since 1980, the number of children who are overweight has doubled, and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled," noted Veneman. "This is more than an appearance problem, it's truly a health problem in this country. Through our expanded partnership with 5 A Day, we intend to aggressively address many of these issues head-on and tackle the issue of obesity."

The meeting included panel discussions, presentations and networking opportunities for partners and the 5 A Day coordinators from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense.

The meeting also served as an opportunity to formally announce the signing of a memorandum of understanding between USDA, CDC and NCI to formalize their expanded collaboration to promote the 5 A Day Program. The MOU supports the advancement of comprehensive planning at the federal, state and local level, expanded channels for the delivery of evidence-based interventions and improved availability of high-quality data related to fruit and vegetable consumption.

"It's going to take everyone working together and sharing resources to accomplish our goal of all Americans eating 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. With a comprehensive national effort that includes federal agencies, not-for-profits, retailers, state and local representatives, and others, everybody wins," said Dr. Lorelei DiSogra, director of the 5 A Day Program. "Americans benefit from better health, industry benefits from increased sales, and government benefits from reduced health care costs associated with chronic disease, it's win-win-win for all."

For more information on the 5 A Day for Better Health Program, visit www.5aday.gov.


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