Obesity in the United States

The attention of mass media and policy-makers is usually attracted to such health problems as cancer, AIDS, or smoking. Certainly, one cannot deny that they pose a significant threat to people. However, there are other risks that one should not overlook, and one of them is obesity. Its effects can be much more serious than many people believe.

This paper can be of some interest to educators and healthcare workers who need to join their efforts in order to address this issue. They can change people’s attitudes toward their eating habits and lifestyles, and they may play an instrumental role in implementing the solution proposed in this essay.

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First, it should be noted that there are various definitions of obesity and there are different criteria for diagnosing it. Overall, from medical standpoint, it can be viewed as an excess of fat tissues that can eventually result in various health impairments and even reduced life expectancy (Alexander-Mott, 221).

This problem can be attributed to a variety of factors such as inappropriate diet, sedentary lifestyle, or eating disorders that can be attributed to mental health problems (Alexander-Mott, 222). The first two factors are probably the most important ones and their effects should be mitigated.

When explaining the problem of obesity, one should not overlook its possible implications. First, this disorder is associated with such risks as diabetes, sleep apnea, hypertension, gallstone, cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer (Ostman, Britton, and Jonsson, 3). These risks may not manifest themselves during childhood or adolescence. Yet, they can become very widespread among adults. This is one aspect of the problem.

Furthermore, one should not forget that people who, have problems with extra weight, may often be stigmatized by peers especially during childhood and adolescence. In many cases, they are blamed for something that they are not guilty of.

In the long term, such stigmatization can result in inferiority complex and depression, especially among adolescents (Ostman, Britton, and Jonsson, 26). Therefore, it is possible to say that obesity not only impairs the quality of a person’s life, but also results into various physiological and psychological problems.

The importance of this problem can be illustrated by looking at its scale. According to the data, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012 more than 35 percent of adults in the US are obese (CDC, unpaged). It means that there are more than fifty million adult people who suffer from this problem. Additionally, 17 percent of children in the United States are diagnosed with obesity (CDC, unpaged).

Again, this percentage indicates that more than 12 million children have extra weight. This report takes into account only those people who were officially diagnosed with obesity, but the actual number can be much larger. Overall, the number of people with obesity problems has increased by more than 20 percent within the last twenty-five years, and this trend is projected to continue in the following decades.

Furthermore, as it has been said before, obesity leads to a variety of health problems, and the problems, and it significantly increases the costs of healthcare. For example, only in 2004, healthcare costs related to obesity problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or hypertension constituted $75 billion (Nnakwe, 208).

Moreover, the problem of extra weight is an important contributing factor to approximately 200.000 deaths each year (Nnakwe, 208). These are the main aspects of the problem. Every person living in the United States is affected by it, even if he or she does not suffer from obesity. In this case, it is possible to speak about the costs of this problem since this money might have been spent otherwise. Moreover, given current estimates, obesity is likely to impact almost every family of the country. This is why it cannot be overlooked.

There are several strategies that community can take in order to address this issue. One of the solutions that have been tried was to prohibit vending machines that distribute what is now called unhealthy or “junk” food. In particular, one can speak about food items as pork rinds, carbonated beverages, gums, and so forth (Heshmat, 70). Certainly, poor diet is one of the crucial factors contributing to obesity.

Moreover, it is necessary to minimize children’s exposure to this type of food. However, one should take into account that this initiative did not actually change children’s attitude toward their eating habits. Certainly, they may not be able to buy gums or potato chips in elementary or secondary schools, but it does not mean that they cannot do it outside of school.

Secondly, one can mention the regulations requiring food companies to disclose information about their products, especially their chemical composition. This policy is supposed to increase people’s awareness about what they eat. The problem with this solution is that many people do not pay attention to this information, and it is not emphasized by the producers themselves. For instance, it is often typed in a small print that is sometimes almost illegible.

Finally, economists argue in favor of increased taxation for unhealthy products. Certainly, this policy can generate extra income, approximately $ 1 billion annually (Heshmat, 73). This money can be spent on medical costs or other urgent problems. However, one should take into account that this tax burden can shifted on the shoulders of poor people are often the buyers of unhealthy food. Moreover, this initiative will not change people’s attitudes toward their food choices.

This problem can be effectively resolved provided that people change their attitudes toward their food choices and their lifestyles, especially sedentary lifestyle. This task requires active cooperation of both medical professionals, especially those who work in schools, and educators.

Secondly, this solution has to target both children and parents. The first initiative is to develop new physical education classes. During these classes, both teachers and medical workers will have to explain why unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyle are not good for them.

In particular, children should be able to see that such food choices will not make them stronger or more attractive. Later, this message can be reinforced during science classes when teachers would explain how exactly unhealthy food or sedentary lifestyle can harm a person (O’Dea and Eriksen, 280). Still, the most important task of teachers is to demonstrate that by leading more active lifestyles, children will have a much more fulfilling life. The key goal is to show the benefits that students can derive from healthy food or physical activities.

Teachers should not attempt to scare children by explaining all possible effects of obesity. This initiative should be intended for the students in elementary and secondary schools because people of this age are most susceptible to external influence (O’Dea and Eriksen, 280). Secondly, one should take into consideration that children’s lifestyle and their eating habits are largely determined by the opinions of their parents.

Provided that these people are tolerant to unhealthy food, their children will be more likely to have problems with extra weight. This is why schools should organize seminars or lectures for parents. Educators should first identify the dangers of obesity for children. Secondly, they need to show how food choices can lead to obesity. Finally, healthcare professionals have to explain what kinds of food are most suitable for people of various ages, especially children and adolescents. These are main components of this solution.

Admittedly, there can be several objections to this solution. First of all, some school administrators may argue that such campaigns have already been implemented. The main limitation of these campaigns is that they usually emphasized the dangers of unhealthy food and sedentary lifestyles.

Yet, they did not always emphasize the benefits of good food and physical exercises. In other words, children and parents did not see alternatives to them. Moreover, in many cases, anti-obesity programs were ill-adapted for the needs of children. For example, students may not be able to overcome information overload especially when they are lectured about the dangers of obesity for a long time (O’Dea and Eriksen, 280).

This is why teachers should incorporate these issues into physical education classes and other disciplines that can be related to health. Students must be able to learn about obesity problems at different stages of their education in school; otherwise the arguments of teachers and medical workers are not likely to affect their decisions. This is why this proposed solution is more likely to succeed.

Secondly, policy-makers and planners can argue that this initiative can be too expensive. Moreover, it will involve significant changes in the curriculum. This concern cannot be disregarded, but today the cost of obesity-related problems is much more significant than the hypothetical cost of this solution.

Moreover, in the future, these costs would be on the increase if no measures are taken. Furthermore, eating habits and food choices play an important role throughout a person’s life. In part, the responsibility of schools and healthcare professionals is help students make better choices. This is why the changes in the curriculum can be justified. Overall, by introducing several new topics in physical education and science classes, teachers will not make them worse.

There can be another objection to this program. For example, some parents may view the changes in the curriculum as something unnecessary. In particular, they may argue that they know better what their children need. Yet, this problem can be overcome, especially during seminars and lectures that can be organized for parents.

The task of educators is to convince parents that they have common goals such as health of children. In addition, they need to show that there are alternatives to unhealthy food. Overall, educators have to explain that they are not trying to exercise more power of family life; instead the long-term goal is to avert a threat to the health of individuals and entire population, in general. This rhetoric will enable teachers and health professionals to resolve potential conflicts with parents.

The scale of obesity problem and its far-reaching implications call for active cooperation of parents, teachers, and medical workers. The proposed solution is based on the premise obesity can be attributed eating habits and lifestyles. Its key objective is to change people’s attitude toward these issues. If this strategy is successfully implemented, it can minimize many health risks to which children, adolescents, and adults are exposed. Moreover, it can save a significant amount of costs.

Works Cited

Alexander-Mott, Lee. Understanding Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, and Obesity, New York: Taylor & Francis, 1994. Print.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Obesity Trends. 27 Feb. 2012. Web. 14 Apr. 2012.

Heshmat, Shahram. Eating Behavior and Obesity: Behavioral Economics Strategies for Health Professionals, Berkeley: Springer Publishing Company, 2011. Print.

Nnakwe, Nweze. Community Nutrition: Planning Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, Washington: Jones & Bartlett Learning, 2009. Print

O’Dea Jennifer and Eriksen Michael. Childhood Obesity Prevention: International Research, Controversies, and Interventions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Ostman, Jan, Mona Britton, and Egon Jonsson. Treating and Preventing Obesity: An Evidence Based Review, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Print.

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