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Obesity in America

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Obesity in America

May 23, 2011

Obesity is defined as “a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems” (1). It is a huge problem in America and is an epidemic that is growing to enormous proportions. “Two out of every three adults are either overweight or obese. In addition, one out of every three children is either overweight or obese” (2). “It causes at least 300,000 needless deaths annually in the United States, and related healthcare costs top $100 billion” (3). This is an issue that not only affects our country, but extends worldwide, as well. So, the question at hand is what our responsibility is collectively as a nation, and particularly the government in turning this issue around for Americans?

The main ethical conflicts I will discuss are whether we should focus on the individual, helping those who are overweight or obese to lose weight thus focusing on education and prevention or whether there should be more drastic measures put in place, up to and including impinging on the rights of individuals for the good of society. In doing so, I will be utilizing the consequentialism and non-consequentialism ethical models.

The consequentialist ethical model would support the fact that “there is a need to produce an environment that supports healthy eating and physical activity throughout the community” (4). This could take many forms up to and including our stepping in and putting restrictions in place such as taxes on fast food or even more drastically, “For example, physicians’ groups in the United Kingdom have begun to endorse the concept of withholding scarce and dwindling national health system funds for maladies that arise from self-inflicted conditions such as excessive weight” (5). Other measures may include “limits to commercial advertising, a ban on chocolate drink at schools or compulsory physical exercise for obese employees” (6). Botton line, the consequentialist view supports taking drastic measures to achieve the desired result, regardless of the measures taken to do so.

The non-consequentialist ethical model would include other avenues, while staying in line with the rules and laws in place, thus protecting the individual. Education is one way of approaching this issue. Other strategies or measures could include some of the following: “regulating the nature and amount of food advertising directed at children, providing high-quality recreation areas, safe cycle paths and safe street lighting in local neighborhoods, improving public transport, providing economic incentives for production and distribution of vegetables and fruit; and developing town planning policies that promote active or public transport over private motor cars” (7).

There are issues with both of these approaches though. For example, the consequentialist approach would benefit the obese and those who need help, however it would also penalize those who are not overweight, “This means that we are affecting some individuals negatively in order to benefit others or to create healthcare savings at the societal level” (8). The non-consequentialist view, while following the rules, unfortunately may not reach those affected.

When looking at these two very different approaches, and further seeing how they fall in line with the two ethical models of consequentialism and non-consequentialism, I would say that I fall more in line with the consequentialist viewpoint as I feel the problem has become so large at this point that grand scale actions need to be taken in order to produce the maximum and best outcome. That said, “there are some obvious ethical incentives to these initiatives, such as improving individual and public health, enabling informed choice and diminishing societal costs” (9). While changes like the ones suggested here may seem drastic, I believe that is what is necessary for real changes to be made. Though I’m not so naïve as to think this is a quick fix and there are definite problems with this approach.

Bibliography

1. “Obesity.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity

2. Chinyere, M.D., Kalvin. “Obesity in America.” 2009 http://www.drkalsweightlosstips.com/obesity-in-america.html

3. Malkinson, Terrance. “Childhood and Adult Obesity.” Iee USA Today’s Engineer Today. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters, 29 Oct. 2003 http://www.todaysengineer.org/2003/Nov/worldbytes.asp 4. Proietto, Joseph and Baur, Louise A. “10: Management of obesity.”. The Medical Journal of Australia. Editors: Donald J Chisholm and Jeffrey D Zajac. MJA 2004; 180 (9): 474-480 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/180_09_030504/pro10445_fm.html 5. Hausman, Carl. “The Ethics of Obesity.” Ethics Newsline. Published by The Institute for Global Ethics. Oct 2nd, 2006 http://www.globalethics.org/newsline/2006/10/02/the-ethics-of-obesity/ 6. Holm, S. “Obesity interventions and ethics”. Journal compilation 2007 The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity reviews 8 (Suppl. 1), 207-210 http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_mla_format_examples.shtml 7. Proietto, Joseph and Baur, Louise A. “10: Management of obesity.”. The Medical Journal of Australia. Editors: Donald J Chisholm and Jeffrey D Zajac. MJA 2004; 180 (9): 474-480 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/180_09_030504/pro10445_fm.html 8. Holm, S. “Obesity interventions and ethics”. Journal compilation 2007 The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity reviews 8 (Suppl. 1), 207-210 http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_mla_format_examples.shtml 9. Have, M. ten. “Ethics and prevention of overweight and obesity: an inventory.” Wiley Online Library. The Authors. obesity reviews © 2011 International Association for the Study of Obesity. 4 MAY 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00880.x http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00880.x/abstract

Bibliography: 1. “Obesity.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesity 2. Chinyere, M.D., Kalvin. “Obesity in America.” 2009 http://www.drkalsweightlosstips.com/obesity-in-america.html 3. Malkinson, Terrance. “Childhood and Adult Obesity.” Iee USA Today’s Engineer Today. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Reuters, 29 Oct. 2003 http://www.todaysengineer.org/2003/Nov/worldbytes.asp 4. Proietto, Joseph and Baur, Louise A. “10: Management of obesity.”. The Medical Journal of Australia. Editors: Donald J Chisholm and Jeffrey D Zajac. MJA 2004; 180 (9): 474-480 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/180_09_030504/pro10445_fm.html 5. Hausman, Carl. “The Ethics of Obesity.” Ethics Newsline. Published by The Institute for Global Ethics. Oct 2nd, 2006 http://www.globalethics.org/newsline/2006/10/02/the-ethics-of-obesity/ 6. Holm, S. “Obesity interventions and ethics”. Journal compilation 2007 The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity reviews 8 (Suppl. 1), 207-210 http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_mla_format_examples.shtml 7. Proietto, Joseph and Baur, Louise A. “10: Management of obesity.”. The Medical Journal of Australia. Editors: Donald J Chisholm and Jeffrey D Zajac. MJA 2004; 180 (9): 474-480 http://www.mja.com.au/public/issues/180_09_030504/pro10445_fm.html 8. Holm, S. “Obesity interventions and ethics”. Journal compilation 2007 The International Association for the Study of Obesity. Obesity reviews 8 (Suppl. 1), 207-210 http://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/project_mla_format_examples.shtml 9. Have, M. ten. “Ethics and prevention of overweight and obesity: an inventory.” Wiley Online Library. The Authors. obesity reviews © 2011 International Association for the Study of Obesity. 4 MAY 2011 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00880.x http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00880.x/abstract

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