Obesity is a big problem in American today, with the amount of overweight people on the rise. According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control 34.9 percent of Americans are obese. A third of adults are obese, and the problem is not limited to just them. Children under the age of 11 have an 18 percent obesity rate, and adolescents is slightly higher at 21 percent. The numbers for all age groups have been growing over the last 30 years, and they are expected to continue doing so.
No matter the age of the person, an individual that is overweight is at higher risk for some serious health conditions. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer are among them. These conditions are serious and can contribute to an earlier age of death. Increased weight is also hard on joints, leading to chronic knee and back pain as well.
A study on the prevalence of obesity showed that the Midwest and Southern states have the highest amount of obesity. Mississippi had the largest with 34.9 percent. The state also has the highest poverty rate, which may correlate as processed foods tend to be cheaper and easier to access. While this correlation is present there is no hard evidence to link the two. Colorado had the lowest obesity rate at 20.7 percent.
Poverty is not the only factor that appears to influence weight trends. Lack of education, sedentary lifestyle and public transportation also play a part in the rise of obesity. Parents lifestyle patterns are being passed down to their children. Increased time spent with technology and less time participating in physical activity are also adding to America’s weight problem. The American Academy of Pediatrics states that a child should spend a maximum of one to two hours interacting with media and technology. The estimated average, however, is closer to seven hours a day. The habits that children and teens are learning now are likely to stay with them throughout their lifetime.
Healthy habits may seem time-consuming and costly, however the cost of obesity is higher in the long run. In 2008 the medical expenses paid related to obesity in the United States alone were $147 billion. This number is only expected to rise in the years to come.
The CDC has programs in place to help combat the increase in weight gain. One such program is the Communities Putting Prevention to Work. This program focuses on providing education to 50 communities through out the U.S. with emphasis on healthy eating, exercise and smoking cessation. The program also works to improve safe active public transport, such as bicycling and mass public transit use.
Other programs are being implemented throughout the country to help promote healthy life styles. Many schools are now offering healthier options and limiting ‘junk foods’ and sodas. Public service announcements are also now becoming geared toward improving eating patterns and getting active.
Mainstream media has shows promoting healthier lifestyles. The Biggest Loser is one such show. The show has motivation not just for participants but also for viewers. Workouts and diet plans are provided online with lists of other resources for support. Their site is not the only one to do so, with many other options for information and support available online.
With resources available throughout communities and online, obesity needs to be combated now to prevent its incidence from rising. Adults have options available to help them live a healthier life and these resources need to be utilized. Parents need to take advantage of these resources as well and help head of obesity in children before it begins to affect their health.
By Latasha Alvaro
Trust for America’s Health