Obesity in the United States of America has been rising at dramatic levels over the past two decades, to the point where it has been labeled as an epidemic by public health officials. The problem seems to be accelerating with each passing year and decade, and it is building enough momentum to be a true public health catastrophe. According to the Get America Fit Foundation (GAFF), the problem is truly an epidemic on a massive scale when you consider there are 58 million overweight people in America.
Even more alarming is the fact that nearly 40 million of those people can be classified as obese, and three million are considered morbidly obese (which is having a Body Mass Index higher than 40). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points to the timeframe of 1990 to 2010 when the problem really started to escalate in America and become a major health issue. Back in 2000, the CDC reported that none of the 50 states had a population that was over 30% obese. Fast forward ten years later to 2010, and a shocking 12 states were now reporting that they had an obesity prevalence of 30%.
Currently, over one-third of American adults (35. 7%) and approximately 17% of children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19 years old are obese in the USA. (“Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: Adult Obesity – DNPAO – CDC”, 2013). A stunning eight out of 10 Americans over the age of 25 are currently considered overweight (“GAFF | Get America Fit Foundation”, 2013). This data is alarming and shows that obesity has the potential to wreck enormous havoc on our already much-debated and scrutinized health care system over the next few decades.
Some of the leading causes of preventable death in America are related to complications from obesity, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer, most specifically breast and colon. Obesity also contributes to a host of other ailments, including coronary heart disease, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis and hypertension (“GAFF | Get America Fit Foundation | Children’s Health Statistics”, 2013). Hospital costs associated with obesity are exploding, and literally measured in hundreds of billions of dollars.
Research from the CDC shows that medical costs associated with obesity were estimated to be $147 billion in 2008. On an individual basis, the medical costs for people who are suffering from obesity average to be $1,429 higher compared to people of normal weight. (“Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: Adult Obesity – DNPAO – CDC”, 2013). Research from GAFF suggests that obesity has a much greater impact on the American Healthcare system, since the increased rate of obesity has led to the rise of a host of other illnesses and diseases that have a massive cumulative impact.
When you add the total cost of all major obesity-related diseases, it result in an astronomical sum, Just consider the following figures: Type II Diabetes ($63. 1 billion), Osteoporosis ($17. 2 billion), Hypertension ($3. 2 billion), Heart Disease ($6. 9 billion), Post-Menopausal Breast Cancer ($2. 32 billion), Colon Cancer ($2. 7 billion) and Endometrial Cancer ($790 million). (“GAFF | Get America Fit Foundation “, 2013).
There are obvious tangible benefits to fighting and lowering obesity, and as we have just outlined, decreased national healthcare costs provide a giant impetus for our government and citizenry to make this a critical priority. In addition to decreased healthcare costs, by promoting and encouraging physical fitness, individuals will experience increased self-esteem, greater levels of activity and enhanced quality of life. In order to reverse the skyrocketing obesity rate, it will require the cooperation of the food industry, the government, academia, and health care providers.
However, it is paramount that most of the anti-obesity education efforts focus primarily on the individual level, since he or she is the only person responsible for what goes in their bodies and how much activity they get on a daily basis. Most Americans must institute a massive and dramatic behavior change when it comes to our relationships with food and exercise. (Verduin, 2005) The most important factor in attempting to reverse the obesity crisis has to start with education. We need to teach and truly emphasize to the American population about the importance of healthy eating and physical fitness.
Nutrition and exercise are the two most important factors that determine how much a person weighs. By providing consumers with a large variety of healthy food choices and supplying comprehensive nutrition information about products in the food system, we can supply the public with critical knowledge on the importance of healthy food choices. Although surveys indicate that Americans would like to make healthier, more nutritious eating decisions, research shows that there are four primary motivating factors that impact our food choices: taste, quality, convenience, and price.
(Verduin, 2005) Any anti-obesity education efforts aimed at the public would be wise to heed this information, and stress how healthy food options fit into these four primary factors. For instance, it’s hard to beat the convenience and price of a banana. A banana comes with its own protective shell, costs way under a dollar a pound, and packs a nutritional wallop. Consider that the average teenager sees hundreds of TV commercials for fast food, sodas and junk food each year, but rarely has anyone ever seen an advertisement for a banana, apple or peach.
That needs to change. While it’s important that we actively educate the adult American public on healthy eating choices, most efforts should be concentrated at an early age in the classroom and cafeteria. According to GAFF, poor diet and inactivity are the two main reasons behind the alarming rise in obesity amongst the youth of America. Vending machines that dispense soda and candy bars should be eliminated from schools and replaced with fresh juices and healthy snacks like fruit, vegetables, granola, nuts and seeds.
Students should be required to take classes on nutrition, and have those classes also teach skills on smart grocery shopping, along with meal preparation and cooking. The basic elements of nutrition, such as major food groups, vitamins and minerals, protein, carbohydrates and the different types of fat, should all be covered. Not only should these concepts be taught from a textbook, but they should be applied by actually preparing simple meals using recommended, nutrient-rich foods.
It’s amazing how many people lack the most basic, fundamental kitchen skills to plan and prepare a meal. Learning a few simple, healthful recipes such as vegetarian chili or a fresh, homemade garden salad can inspire someone to really pay attention to what they are eating and take their nutrition in their own two hands. We also need to make sure that our citizens not only learn, but also experience first-hand the benefits of regular exercising. I would do this by making fitness a mandatory part of every school day.
Many schools have phased out gym classes, an act which contradicts the ever-growing body of research that underscores how important the mind-body connection is to our mental and psychological well-being. Currently 25% of all American are considered sedentary, meaning they get virtually zero physical exercise or activity. Even more concerning is that a whopping 78% of all Americans are not meeting basic activity level recommendations. (Verduin, 2005) We must make sure that the youth of America are taught the importance of exercise at an early age, and recognize the incredible benefits that physical activity can have
mentally, physically and psychologically,. ? References GAFF | Get America Fit Foundation | Children’s Health Statistics. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://www. getamericafit. org/statistics-obesity-in-america. html Obesity and Overweight for Professionals: Data and Statistics: Adult Obesity – DNPAO – CDC. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://www. cdc. gov/obesity/data/adult. html Verduin, P. American Society for Clinical Nutrition (July 2005). Solutions to obesity: perspectives from the food industry. Retrieved May 11, 2013, from http://ajcn. nutrition. org/content/82/1/259S. full