How the Government Can Curb Obesity

If we can chip away at or save the $550 billion a year which obesity is costing us, don't the benefits outweigh the burden here?

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There is a new report out from the Institute of Medicine that was shared this week at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Weight of the Nation conference in Washington, D.C.

Their findings? Forty-two percent of American adults could be obese and 11 percent severely obese by 2030.

Currently, nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight, 34 percent of  those obese, and 6 percent severely obese, which means more than 100 pounds overweight. And our children are following in their parent's footsteps. Nearly one third of America's children are overweight.

[Study: First Graders Don't Like to Play With Fat Classmates]

Now you might say this is nothing new. But this study found that it is not entirely the personal eating habits or willpower of the obese person that is to blame here. This study suggests that our eating habits are greatly affected by our environment and in order to reverse this epidemic, all levels of society will be needed to make a substantial difference—including the government.

What I like about this study is that the institute not only pointed out the problems, but it had a great list of solutions—solutions that can save money (obesity is costing the taxpayers $550 billion a year!) and lives. Here are some of their recommendations:

  1. Focus on schools—education about food, availability of food, items of food, portions, etc. Now for those of you who didn't like the first lady saying our kids should eat more broccoli, well, she was on to something. Our children spend most of their days in school. So shouldn't we be more involved in and aware of what they're putting in their bodies?
  2. Cutting farm subsidies. The current subsidies prohibit farmers in the United States from planting fruits and vegetables; and of course, this greatly affects the price of fruits and vegetables, making it more difficult for American families to purchase, prepare, and eat healthier food items.
  3. Taxing sugar sweetened beverages such as carbonated soda. Yes, that canned soft drink is killing us America. Slowly, very slowly—just like our economic recovery. When you travel to Europe, you see people drinking water; not soft drinks, not juice. They're healthier and certainly they're thinner.
  4. Build more sidewalks, trails, and parks. Why is it Italians eat pasta all day long, smoke, drink wine, and not only are thin, but have a lower stress level, less heart disease, dementia, and Alzheimer's? Same goes for the French; they eat cheese, bread, drink wine...but they walk. And they have plenty of parks, gardens, and sidewalks which give them not only the option to walk, but access to walk.
  5. All schools should have physical education classes and athletic activities. Our kids need to stop sitting in front of computers and televisions; both in the school and at home. 
  6. [Read the U.S. News debate: Should Sugar Be Regulated? ]

    Now what do all of these have in common? Two things. Government and money. I know a lot of you don't like our government being involved in our personal lives. But when you look at our obesity rate and that of our children, we're failing America, and we're failing our future generations. Why not let the government help to change the current environment we live in?

    Do we really need a food court in every mall? Do we really need our Big Mac to have twice the calories as a Big Mac in Copenhagen? Why are we the only country that eats in our cars and has a drive through block after block after block with food?!

    [Find the best diet for you.]

    The second thing all of those recommendations have in common is money. If we can chip away at or save the $550 billion a year which obesity is costing us, don't the benefits outweigh the burden here?

    The bottom line is, we have a choice, America. We can work together, with our government, as a society, to put our money where our mouth is—rather than food—or we can watch the land of the free and the home of the brave become the land of the fat and the home of the obese. It's your choice.

    • Read: American Fast Food Contains More Salt
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