WASHINGTON -- Dr. C. Everett Koop, the former surgeon general who tried to persuade Americans to give up smoking, now hopes to make them thinner and fitter.
Tomorrow, at a press conference at the White House, Dr. Koop is to announce the creation of a prevention campaign called "Shape Up America!" that will produce advertisements and public service announcements to encourage Americans to lose weight.
Experts in the obesity field said it would be the first national effort to do something about the escalating weight of Americans, and they generally were enthusiastic about Dr. Koop's plan.
Government statistics released in July showed that the number of Americans who were more than 20 percent over their desired weight increased in the last decade and that 30 percent of the population was now obese.
The campaign, organized by a foundation established by Dr. Koop, will start as Americans make their New Year's resolutions. Sponsors like Weight Watchers International, Campbell Soup Co., the Heinz Foundation, Time magazine, and Kellogg Co. have agreed to contribute $1 million each over three years.
In an interview on Friday, Dr. Koop said he hoped to raise $30 million, but he would not say how much financing he has gathered so far.
Dr. Koop's plan has more modest goals than those promoted by most weight-loss programs.
Instead of telling people that they must achieve their ideal weight and that they must exercise at or near capacity at least three times a week, the campaign will advise Americans to strive for small increases in exercise, like 15 minutes of walking a day, and small weight losses of 5 to 15 pounds.
That change in diet and exercise advice is endorsed in a report to be released today by the National Academy of Sciences Office of Medicine.
Dr. Koop, who as surgeon general from 1981 to 1989 campaigned against smoking, has most recently been involved in the administration's health care overhaul effort. He said one benefit of a lower obesity rate would be a reduction in the country's health care costs.
Obesity causes 300,000 deaths a year, he said, and obese people need health care services more frequently than thinner people.
"One way to reduce health costs is to get people to use the health care system less frequently," he said.
Dr. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an advocacy group based in Washington, said reducing obesity would be far more difficult than reducing smoking, which declined in popularity during Dr. Koop's tenure as surgeon general.
"Our culture is geared to a lifestyle that promotes obesity," he said. "I wouldn't count on this effort alone to reverse skyrocketing obesity."