Friday, May 18, 2012

The Weight of the Nation: An Unstoppable Obesity Epidemic

The HBO series Weight of the Nation recently debuted in a four-part, eye-opening account of the obesity epidemic sweeping the globe. HBO partnered with the Institute of Medicine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, along with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente to emphasize the catastrophic effects of obesity and its alarming rise since 1980.

As a health professional, it’s difficult to watch individuals struggle with their weight, but it is hardly a rare occurrence these days. Although obesity is a bigger issue in low-income communities and is more likely to affect minorities, personal battles with food overconsumption does not discriminate, affecting Americans of all backgrounds.

Research from the Bogalusa Heart Study conducted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, reveals that 77% of obese children become obese adults. This is a staggering statistic that highlights the need to stop the problem before it gets out of hand. Parents and community leaders would be wise to teach children to make good choices when it comes to their health and well-being. Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative has brought awareness to the issue, but it’s only a step in the right direction. More needs to be done.

Marketing and advertising play a significant role in childhood obesity, nudging children towards processed foods and sugar sugar sugar. Government subsidies allow Big Agriculture and top manufacturers to aggressively market products to children and turn them into sugar-fat-salt-addicts before they are old enough to form their own opinions.

Our culture of capitalism means that wealthy companies can afford to market their products, despite health consequences. This is just one part of the overall problem, but it’s not right that children are subjected to endless advertisements for sugary cereals, soda, and unhealthy convenience food without seeing an equal number of ads supporting healthier options. Where is the balance? Kids will never learn to eat right and prioritize health if they are constantly bombarded with messages encouraging unhealthy behaviors.

Check out Weight of the Nation to learn more about the national obesity epidemic, rising health care costs, and the future of health in our country. It’s scary stuff.

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