Obesity is one of the most pressing healthcare issues currently existing in the United States. According to the official statistics, more than one-third of Americans suffer from overweight and obesity-related problems, such as heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, etc. (CDC, 2016). Scholars also warn that if no effective measures are taken, the overwhelming majority of American children will be obese in adulthood (Geeded et al., 2013). It is believed that the primary factors contributing to obesity are poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, so prevention programs should focus on raising awareness and encouraging people to pay increased attention to their lifestyle.
The scale of the problem is alarming, as more than 1 in 20 Americans has extreme obesity (CDC, 2016). Millions of citizens are overweight and suffer from obesity-related health problems that not only reduce the quality of their life but also have the enormous economic burden (NIH, 2012). It is estimated that medical costs of Americans who are obese are significantly higher than those of normal weight. As a result, billions of dollars are spent annually to address obesity-related health issues of U.S. citizens (CDC, 2016). Moreover, research shows that obesity results in job absenteeism, which costs private and public organizations billions of dollars every year (The State of Obesity, 2017).
Although obesity is a problem affecting people of all ages, genders, and ethnic and socioeconomic groups, it affects some population groups more than others. Thus, evidence shows that African-Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are most subject to obesity problems (CDC, 2016). Moreover, obesity is closely related to economic status, with disadvantaged communities being at higher risk for gaining unhealthy weight. Interestingly, it has been found that White women and children from low-income families have higher risks for obesity than representatives of other ethnic groups (Food Research and Action Center, 2017). The main explanation for this trend is that low-income families have limited financial resources to maintain a balanced diet and engage in physical activities.
Research indicated that diet and physical exercises are the keys to strong health and normal weight. Contemporary lifestyle promotes the consumption of high-fat foods that fail to provide the adequate amount of nutrients. Fast food, which is currently consumed in high amounts, consists of lots of sugar, salt, and trans-unsaturated fatty acids, which are highly dangerous for health (Wiklund, 2016). Moreover, restaurants and takeaways offer large portions of such foods, which means that people get used to consuming much more calories than they actually need. The lack of physical exercises and sedentary lifestyle contribute to the obesity problem. Domestic mechanization of daily tasks, increased use of cars, and office work all limit daily activity, which means that people simply do not burn calories they consume in an efficient manner (Wiklund, 2016).
Given the role of diet and physical activity in reducing obesity levels, federal/state prevention and health programs implemented in the USA target these specific areas. For example, many school-based programs aim at providing healthy, affordable food and opportunities for physical activity to American children. Local programs such as, for example, Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) target the health needs of local communities by providing education and resources to maintain healthier lifestyles. Another project that has recently attracted public attention is Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program focused on reducing childhood obesity (Fitzpatrick, 2013).
However, obesity is both a social and healthcare issue that requires integrated efforts at local and national levels. Promoting healthy lifestyles in not enough to reduce the alarming level of adult and childhood obesity in the country. Additional interventions are strongly required that would make healthy food more accessible to low-income families. Given the scale of the problem, the government should consider developing comprehensive obesity prevention programs that could address the needs of diverse populations.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2016). Adult obesity facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html
Fitzpatrick, K. M. (2013). Poverty and health: A crisis among America’s most vulnerable. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
Food Research and Action Center. (2017). Relationship between poverty and obesity. Retrieved from http://frac.org/obesity-health/relationship-poverty-obesity
Geedes, L., Hall, T., & Visram, S. (2013). Getting the balance right: qualitative evaluation of a holistic weight management intervention to address childhood obesity. Journal of Public Health, 35(2), 246-254.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIH). (2012). Overweight and obesity statistics. Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity
The State of Obesity. (2017). The healthcare costs of obesity. Retrieved from http://stateofobesity.org/healthcare-costs-obesity/
Wiklund, P. (2016). The role of physical activity and exercise in obesity and weight management: Time for critical appraisal. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 5(2), 151-154. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jshs.2016.04.001
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