America and the Fight Against Obesity

When the average person pictures a disease, most would picture images of people with colds, stuffy noses, and aches and pains. It is not often that one would immediately jump to obesity. But, obesity has become a worldwide epidemic. People in all class, ages, genders and races suffer. In America, obesity affects the lives of millions. What makes obesity a unique disease is the idea that as a species we are in complete control of the advancement and eradication of the particular ailment. Large scale changes as well as individual choices and cultures could easily prevent obesity on the scale we see it on now, in the United States particularly.

In 2016 more Americans enrolled in gyms and attended than ever before in history. This seems like a positive sign for the fight against obesity, but average American weight is still on the rise. In fact, the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that by the year 2020 three in every four Americans will be obese. This correlation seems to point out that our biggest struggle as a nation is the food we eat on a daily basis. Americans have developed a culture which stresses fast eating, binge eating, the advertising of unhealthy foods, the use of sugar to create dependency in children and the lack of regulation over livestock and food manufacturing. These factors are responsible for the steady rise in obesity and also affect the rate in which obesity can decline. In fact, no state in America had a reporting of obesity lower than 20% (CDC).

It is clear that Americans are trying to leave behind their sedentary lifestyles, but the grocery stores are still stocked full of unhealthy foods. Government regulation increases over the production and labeling of foods would help the average consumer know what he/she is eating, and also help families make smarter choices when buying food. Government incentives to organic farmers could also help to grow an interest and a profitability to farming with non genetically modified organism (GMOs). America still allows chemicals in food that other countries such as Canada, Australia and China have banned. In the mid 200s all soda and high-calorie snacks from vending machines were banned from sales in California, Pennsylvania and other state schools, yet these companies still continued to thrive on their own despite this. This shows that the free market could still thrive while being incentivised and regulated when it benefits the American people. The knowledge of what goes into our food is a great stepping stone towards Americans making independent healthy choices.

American healthcare can also become more actively involved in the eradication of the obesity epidemic. Many healthcare plans do not offer any solutions outside of expensive surgical processes to help people lose weight and keep it off. In fact, there were over 300,000 preventable deaths each year due to obesity.

In terms of healthcare approximately $147 billion is spent on preventable healthcare arising from obesity.If healthcare providers made it a priority to offer support groups, cooking classes and exercise programs for the people they cover many Americans would benefit. This could also help Americans avoid costly health care down the line due to conditions that could arise from obesity. As of now, obesity costs our healthcare system more money than smoking related illnesses.

Essentially, America as a whole must become more proactive in preventing obesity rather than dealing with the disease when it arises. Most food companies are aware of their influence on the growth of obesity, yet for profitability they do not try to lower the sugar and fat contents of their food. Companies are well aware that major factors of obesity also raise palatability of their food. In order to keep selling food and keep consumers happy they have yet to act on changing the components of their food. In New York it is law that restaurants must label the caloric content of food items on menus in the same font as the food items themselves. This law creates no loopholes for companies to hide nutritional value from customers and keeps consumers aware of what they are eating. Consumer awareness is a key to prevention when dealing with obesity.

From the data collected by the CDC and various group efforts it is clear that obesity can be controlled through a variety of ways. Initiatives such as former First Lady, Michelle Obama’s, “Let’s Move!” program help to use media to influence youth to becoming active. Television stations such as Nickelodeon also honor the “Day of Play” when ads to go outside and play air as opposed to normal programming. These efforts along with state and federal influence can help to control the media and business choices that affect obesity. Healthcare involvement on the part of the companies and their constituents can also help individuals fight off obesity.