Los Angeles County officials introduced a new public health campaign on Thursday aimed at reducing an obesity rate that has risen to nearly a quarter of adults in the nation's most populous county.
The message of the new campaign is "portion size matters."
Advertisements from the campaign – reading "Choose Less. Weigh Less." – compare calorie counts for differing meal sizes. Three slices of pizza have 990 calories, while two slices have 660, according to one of the ads, which will be placed on billboards and bus shelters.
"It's no secret that portion size as well as our waistlines have expanded over the last two decades," said county Public Health Director and Health Officer Dr. Jonathan Fielding.
The average restaurant meal today is more than four times larger than it was in the 1950s, and the surface of the average dinner plate is 36 percent greater than it was 1960, Fielding added.
"There's too much on our plate," he said.
"If we think about choosing less, ordering smaller portions, we'll be on the right track," Fielding said at a press conference unveiling the county's campaign.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in an interview after the event that he would consider a ban on the sale of large sodas similar to one recently approved in New York City, which intends to prohibit sales of sugary beverages in containers larger than 16 oz.
"We need to be more aggressive in regulating some of the things that are creating these health epidemics in our society," Yaroslavsky said.
On Thursday, public health officials reported new countywide data showing that the adult obesity rate rose from 13.6 percent to 23.6 percent between 1997 and 2011.
The increase was more dramatic among younger adults, county officials said, with those aged 18 to 39 seeing a 104 percent increase in their obesity rate between 1997 and 2011. The rate of increase was less than half of that for those 40 or older.
Data showed that lower-income residents and those with less formal education had higher rates of obesity than their wealthier and more educated counterparts.
The obesity rate was highest among Latinos, at 31.6 percent, followed closely by African Americans at 31 percent. Whites had a rate of 18 percent, while Asian/Pacific Islanders had a rate of 8.9 percent, though the latter group saw by far the greatest increase since 1997.
The calorie-conscious campaign is part of a broader obesity-prevention effort from the county Department of Public Health called Choose Health LA.
Obesity, defined by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as having a body-mass index of 30 or higher, is the chief preventable cause of type 2 diabetes.
Obese people are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, arthritis and many forms of cancer, according to the county.