Obesity: a Public or Private Issue

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Obesity: A Public or Private Issue?
Imagine a world where a school aged child can step out of their school and walk into a McDonalds. A world where soda companies make millions of dollars a year by placing soda machines in schools. A world where 30.5 percent of adults are considered obese. A world where obesity is killing more people than smoking. What if I told you this world is not in your imagination but is the world we live in today? Where would you turn to seek help for this epidemic? Some say the government should take charge of the situation like in the cases of seatbelt and smoking laws. Others say that it is the responsibility of the private sector. People are responsible for their health, so the government should not be involved. I agree with both sides of the issue. The government should have some control over what people are consuming, but the majority of the responsibility for obesity is in the private sector of America. Since the 1960's obesity in America has more than tripled regardless of sex or race. Today 30.5 percent, or 69 million, American Adults are considered obese ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). In addition, 13 percent of children aged 6-11 years old are considered overweight, and well on their way to becoming obese. Obesity causes over 300,000 deaths a year and costs the country $117 billion dollars, prompting health care providers and the government to label it an epidemic ("Overweight and Obesity…" np). The healthcare community defines obesity as being 20 percent or more over a person's ideal body weight, which is based on their height ("U.S. Health Professionals…" np). Usually this is 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight. Researchers found that the two main causes of obesity are the overabundance of food and people's sedentary lifestyles ("U.S. Health Professionals…" np). Other causes include genetics, lifestyle choices and environmental factors. These alarming statistics have prompted many to seek a solution for a problem that is clearly not going to go away by itself. Obesity moved across the nation without regard to sex, race, and age, or so it seemed. However, it strikes some groups more than others. Furthermore, 69 percent of non-Hispanic black women are overweight or obese and 58 percent of non-Hispanic black men are overweight or obese ("Overweight and Obesity…" np). Studies show that minorities in a lower socioeconomic bracket are more likely than whites in a higher socioeconomic bracket to become obese ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). It is cheaper to feed five children on $1 fast food hamburgers than it is to feed those same five children a nutritious meal for $25 (Resler np). Since the 1960s the only food not to decrease in price is fruits and vegetables (Marano np). Obesity also is most likely to occur in the suburbs and the inner cities. African-Americans and Hispanics have higher population rates in the inner city than Whites. People who live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and bike paths, usually those in the city, are less likely to walk or bike anywhere. This leads to an increase in the sedentary lifestyle that is a major cause of obesity ("U.S. Health Professionals…"np). Instead they are forced to use cars and buses to get around and usually do not have access to gyms or places to exercise. One place in the United States that has the highest rate of obesity is the East South Central U.S. This region includes Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. They have an obesity rate of 22.3 percent among adults ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). While no clear cause for the higher obesity levels in this part of the country has been found two possible causes are there is a higher percentage of African-Americans in the south and the Southern States also tend to eat a higher concentration of fatty foods. West South Central United States, (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana), has the second highest rate of obesity among adults with 22.2 percent.

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