Other Views: Lifestyle choices weigh in: We're fat
August 23, 2012
Alexandria Town Talk (Louisiana)
Conflicting food news from last week is nothing to salivate over.
More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7 percent) have obesity-related conditions. That includes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
But the latest numbers expands on lifestyle markers that go beyond typical race and ethnicity associations, to include socioeconomic status.
» Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with low incomes.
» Higher-income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.
» Between 1988-94 and 2007-08 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.
These numbers come from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga. And they add perspective to obesity research as reported in The New York Times that appears to debunk the idea of "food deserts," a lack of access to affordable healthy food choices in low-income neighborhoods.
Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, "you can get basically any type of food," Roland Sturm of the Rand Corporation, lead author of one of the studies, told The Times.
The only tasty nugget to be found in these numbers and the Rand research is confirmation that Americans' health is tied to common-sense lifestyle choices focused on healthy nutrition and exercise. Anything else is likely to be calorie-costing "gravy."
Obesity bogs down nation
We pay a high price because of rampant obesity. It's a price measured in higher health-care costs and lost productivity.
The price also is paid in a lower quality of life for millions of residents. Many people suffer from obesity-related illnesses -- heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer.
What's saddest is that none of this is news. We've known for years that obesity is a serious and rising problem, and yet we've been unable to stop the trend.
Another reminder of our collective problems with weight arrived with a study by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Adult obesity rates have doubled since 1980 while childhood obesity rates have more than tripled.
The numbers are discouraging for obvious health reasons and because they signal that all of the work done by the public and private sectors in recent years to confront the obesity epidemic hasn't worked.
What do we do now? First, we must resolve not to give up. Second, we need to think holistically about things such as urban and suburban design, school lunches and physical education, cultural messages and traditions.
We need to change the way we collectively think, act and eat. And we need to approach it with urgency and persistence, and a willingness to challenge ourselves, our assumptions and the culture of our state and that of the nation.
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