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Obesity has become an epidemic in today’s American society. Walking down the street and observing people you pass, it would seem a healthy BMI is a minority in this nation. It’s easy to see why; fresh produce and healthy items cost an arm and a leg, while junk foods are easily accessible and cost less than a dollar in some cases. We often pick convenience and pleasure over our own health, and this leads to the normalizing of food addiction and other unhealthy habits. I think that obesity is a growing problem, and it especially pains me to see young children suffering from this at the hands of their irresponsible, uninformed, or even impoverished parents. If new public health reforms that included the accessibility of healthier items, higher taxes on unhealthy items, and informational coalitions were pushed I believe we would make some progress in halting the spread of this epidemic.

The United States of America is considered to have the second highest population of obese people in the world. From 2005-2006, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 72 million obese people in the country (“National Center for Health”). If that doesn’t scream “epidemic”, I don’t know what does! What I find even more disturbing, is the statistics regarding American youth. The prevalence of obesity among U.S. youth was 18.5% in 2015–2016 (Craig Hales, et al.). These statistics are referring to children aged 2-19.  Obesity is a condition that is hard on the body and the mind. Obesity puts excessive strain on the cardiovascular system, puts people at higher risk for diabetes, and is the responsible for 10% of deaths in the United States (Danai Goodard, et al.).

Obesity, which is classified as having a BMI of 30 or greater, is rapidly increasing, effecting all ages of people. It doesn’t discriminate. In 1999 obesity rates in adults was 30.5%, and was 13.9% in children. In 2007, rates climbed to 33.7% in adults and 16.8% in children. Fast forward to 2016, and we can see rates of 39.6% of adults obese and 18.5% of children obese (Craig Hales, et al.). This clearly is a problem and is affecting a wide range of Americans.

In American society, it is very apparent that a leading cause of obesity is the fact that unhealthy food choices are more accessible than healthier choices. We have the quick and convenient fast food chains, which offer dollar menus, value menus, cheap combos, and the option to supersize your order. For example, if I went to McDonalds, I could order a large soda, large order of french fries, a cheeseburger, chicken nuggets, and an ice cream treat for under $10! Fast food joints like this are on every corner, and offer disgustingly huge portions of over processed, high fat, high carb junk food. On the other hand, one nice and balanced salad will set you back $10-$15 in most cases. At your local grocery store, you will find a basket of berries costs twice the amount of a bag of chips or a box of pop tarts. Do you see what is wrong with these facts? Why is it that fresh, farm produce is marked so high?

We all know what constitutes a well-balanced meal. Federal dietary guidelines have always advised society against overly-processed fatty foods, and recommended highly nutritious foods instead. They have also always recommended a diet higher in vegetables and fruits, and lower in meats and dairies (Do you remember the food pyramid?). Even dairy and meats cost less than fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s time for the higher ups to put their money where their mouth is (no pun intended). There shouldn’t be a barrier between consumers and healthy foods based on their income. There are ways to lessen the gap.

One way to hopefully dissolve that income-based barrier between consumers and healthy foods is to work with policies already in play. One major policy for food and low income families is food stamps. If recipients of food stamps had some incentive, such as an increase in their food stamp benefits, to pick healthier choices maybe they would.  Perhaps food stamps could even include more Americans, and thus give more people the ability to purchase healthier items that they otherwise could not afford. Another idea is providing discount coupons on produce to qualifying low-income families (Nestle and Jacobson). Lastly if higher taxes were introduced on foods with higher trans-fat and sugar, it would discourage people from picking those items. If public policies were implemented to lower the costs on fresh items and raise taxes on unhealthy items, there would at least be the potential for obesity rates to decline.

Even with the ideas and/or implementation of public health policies and reforms, there is still the chance that people just won’t care. We, as a society, would need to get enough public momentum behind this issue to really see a difference. In today’s social media age, why not use these platforms to push an agenda of public health? Discuss the negative affects these ingredients have on the body, and use media to advocate public health reform. Advertise healthy options instead of “A Buck and Under” garbage. Dissolve deceptive food advertising. If people began protesting the way the food industry runs, and it became a big enough issue nationwide, perhaps tax reforms and health reforms to benefit the public’s health would be set into motion and then attract even more attention by those who need it the most.

Many may argue that obesity is not an issue to pay much attention to. Whether it is one’s choice, or one’s disease (depending on your view) many obese people live long, “healthy” lives. Okay, so not everyone affected by obesity dies from it; but what kind of quality of life is that? And what sort of example are you setting for your children? Unless you think of your body as a garbage bin, why fill it with trash? A healthier life is without a doubt a happier and more fulfilling one. I think if people were more informed on the subject, and it was easier to make better choices, they would. The level we, as an industrialized nation, have reached in terms to our food (portions, ingredients, prices) is outrageous. It’s time to dumb it down, freshen it up, and start prioritizing our nation’s health.

 

Annotated Bibliography

  1. Huang, TTK, Cawley, JH, Ashe, M, Costa, SA, Frerichs,LM, Zwicker, L, Levy, D, Hammond, R, Kumanyika, S. (2015) Mobilisation of Public Support for Policy Actions to Prevent Obesity. The Lancet 385(9985), 2422-2431. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(14)61743-8. This article serves as a call-to-action for public health reform and citizen engagement regarding the issue of obesity. It outlines different methods that could potentially increase a public demand for health. I am using this article to help me decide which solution I think would best combat this issue. There are many different and creative ideas in this article for me to take in to consideration while writing my proposal. The authors of this article are either professors at prestigious universities or healthcare professionals, so this article is very insightful and credible.
  2. Skinner, Asheley Cockrell, et al. “Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in US Children, 1999‐2014.” Freshwater Biology, Wiley/Blackwell (10.1111), 25 Apr. 2016, onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.21497. This article provides data regarding the obesity in American children ages 2-19. The data is recent as of 2014, and was gathered via The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2014. I will use some of these statistics and findings in my paper to show the effect of obesity on children. The findings are from a national survey so this article is credible.
  3. Reilly, J J, et al. “Health Consequences of Obesity.” Archives of Disease in Childhood, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 1 Sept. 2003, adc.bmj.com/content/88/9/748. This article describes the negative effects of obesity on an individual and on a society. It goes into health risks, both psychological and physical. I am going to use this in my paper to talk about why obesity is a problem. This article was written based off facts found in medical research and research for this article was carried out by a specialist, so I find it a credible source.
  4. Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. World Health Organization, 2000. This book discusses obesity world-wide. It defines why obesity is such an issue, and details what defines a person as “obese”. This book also shares global statistics and shares ideas on how to manage the obesity epidemic. I will refer to this book a lot while writing my paper, as there is a lot of useful basic information as well as ideas for me to think about. The book was written by the World Health Organization- so I believe it is credible.
  5. Hales, Craig M., et al. “Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults and Youth: United States, 2015-2016.” NCHS Data Brief No.288, 2017. This article provides more statistics regarding obesity in the United States. It is more recent statistics and includes adults in the findings. I will use this article to show how many people in the United States are affected by obesity. The authors are all either M.D. or Ph.D., so it is credible.
  6. “National Center for Health Statistics.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 14 Dec. 2017, cdc.gov/nchs/data/factsheets/factsjeet_nhanes.htm. This article provides more statistics regarding obesity in the United States. It is more recent statistics and includes adults in the findings. I will use this article to show how many people in the United States are affected by obesity. This article is from a government database, therefore it is most definitely credible!
  7. Goodard Danai, et al., “The Preventable Causes of Death in the United States: Comparative Risk Assessment of Dietary, Lifestyle, and Metabolic Risk Factors,” org, Apr. 28, 2009. This article details the health risks associated with obesity. It shows the different ways obesity influences daily life for an individual and society. I will use this to inform me and my readers further on the issue. This article is from a medical journal, so it is credible.
  8. Cassidy, Diana, et al. “Is Price a Barrier to Eating More Fruits and Vegetables for Low-Income Families?” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietics, vol. 107, no. 11, 19 Oct. 2007. This article goes in depth about the difference income has for an individual or family in regards to their access to healthier food items. It addresses the potential barrier because of said difference. I will use this article to support my solution in my essay. The authors are PhD, therefore it is a reliable source.
  9. Nestle, Marion, and Michael F. Jacobson. “Halting The Obesity Epidemic: A Public Health Policy Approach.” Public Health Reports, vol. 115, 2000. This journal lists numerous different policies and reforms that could help dismantle the spread of obesity. I am using this article to fuel my own ideas on ways to halt this epidemic, and am finding more in depth ideas here. It is written by two authors, both with PhDs, so I find it credible.