WASHINGTON, DC: The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last week launched a campaign to educate Americans about obesity and to explain that taking small steps can lead to a more healthy lifestyle. The campaign's unveiling coincided with the release of a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association showing that obesity is catching up with tobacco as a leading cause of preventable death.The public awareness campaign, called "Healthy Lifestyles & Disease Prevention," includes four television PSAs, in addition to print, radio, and outdoor messages. McCann Erickson, along with the Ad Council, designed the spots on a pro bono basis. The humorous spots, which depict people finding love handles, double chins, and other unwanted body parts in public places, direct viewers to a website, www.smallstep.gov. The site features 100 tips for things to do to lose weight, such as taking the stairs instead of elevators and eating only half of a dessert. "The idea came out of research that said most people felt losing weight was a Sisyphean task and they have to turn their lives upside down to do it, so they weren't doing anything," said Peggy Conlon, president and CEO of the Ad Council. The campaign kicked off last Tuesday with a press conference in Washington, DC, led by HHS secretary Tommy Thompson. Other speakers who took part included Surgeon General Richard Carmona; Julie Louise Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health. The issue garnered a lot of coverage on TV, including on NBC's Today and CBS' The Early Show, and in newspaper reports, including in The New York Times. Washington, DC, PR agency GYMR is working on the campaign. The study by the CDC showed that deaths caused by poor diet and physical inactivity rose by 33% over the past decade and might soon overtake tobacco as the leading preventable cause of death.