How obesity could impact our health and economy 20 years from now

October 31, 2012
by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
Washington Post


The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health recently released our annual report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future.” Obesity rates in the United States remain unacceptably high, and the epidemic persists in affecting blacks and Hispanics disproportionately. For the first time, this year’s report examined how the obesity epidemic could impact our future 20 years from now. Ironically, this forecast has made me reflect on the past.

Thirty years ago, I lived in Philadelphia and was an instructor at Temple University. After a long day of teaching, I remember heading home with my daughter, who was a preschooler at the time. My office looked down North Broad Street, which ran through some of the worst urban blight of any American city in the past several decades. We wanted to pick up a few items for dinner, but couldn’t find a grocery store or supermarket with the fresh fruit, produce and other healthy foods we were accustomed to eating. About 20,000 people — mostly poor, mostly African American and Hispanic — lived in that neighborhood and had to cope with this type of disadvantage on a daily basis. What I didn’t know then was that Philadelphia was a microcosm of how policies and environments affect diets, obesity and health.

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