Obesity in the United States
Obesity is a health condition characterized by accumulation of excess fat in the body to the level that can cause health complications such as reduced life expectancy, prevalence of cardiac problems and diabetes (Borengasser, Kang, Faske, Gomez-Acevedo, Blackburn, Badger, & Shankar, 2014). When an individual’s body mass index (BMI) is above 30kg/m2 the person is said to be obese. Other health complications associated with obesity include; heart disease, sleep disorders, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoarthritis (Pomeranz & Brownell, 2011). Obesity is caused by binge eating of foods rich in energy, lack of physical exercise, genetic predisposition, endocrine disorders and side effects of some medicines. There is a dearth of evidence, though, that people who eat reasonable foods may suffer from the condition due to an impaired metabolism.
Overview of the Condition
Poor dieting and lack of body exercise are the key triggers of obesity. Individuals with the condition or those who are vulnerable to the condition are advised to improve their eating habits by limiting their consumption of too fatty, salt and sugar foods, and instead eat more foods rich in fiber. Xu, Chepyator-Thomson and Culp (2010) say anti-obesity medications which normally reduce appetite or impede absorption of fats in adjunct to an appropriate diet are some of the interventions for the condition. If diet, physical exercise and drugs have proved ineffective, doctors normally recommend the use of a gastric balloon to help reduce some weight in the victims. Yet in serious situations, surgery has been used to reduce the size of the stomach; this method impairs satiation and the body’s ability to absorb food nutrients.
Segrave (2008) indicated that obesity is one of the preventable health conditions in the world which cause deaths and with a growing prevalence in all demographics. In light of its seriousness, authorities now perceive it as one of the gravest public health conditions in the current world. Obesity is an unwanted condition in virtually any part of the world, particularly in North America and Western Europe, though in the past and in some underdeveloped countries, the condition is still being linked to riches and fertility. In 2013, obesity was categorized by the American Medical Association as an illness.
Healthy People 2020 Document
As Borengasser et al (2014) have suggested the Healthy People 2020 document advocates for a society in which the whole population has a higher life expectancy and healthy lives. In light of this, Obesity is one of the core health conditions it grapples with since the condition is characterized by lower life expectancy and unhealthy lifestyles. As for the mission enshrined in the document, the Committee urges all Americans to be at the forefront in improving health by tightening policy formulation and implementation to curb preventable health conditions among others. The citizenry are also asked to recognize worldwide health improvement values, and bolster public health campaigns of the risk factors of health, illnesses and disability (Campos, 2004). Obesity is at the core of the Document’s agenda, since it has become one of the serious health conditions facing developed causing with most cases of illness and disability being linked to the condition.
The Healthy People 2020 document advocates for the implementation of quantifiable outcomes that can be employed at every level of the government such as creating public awareness campaigns about the dangers of obesity, and encouraging interventions that are supported by evidence such as recommending physical exercise and appropriate dietary practices for the prevention and control of the health condition (Segrave, 2008).
The Document recommends the eradication of preventable diseases, individual disability, harm and early death. Bridging the divide in health problems across the population, and improving the wellbeing of all population segments; creating appropriate facilities and social support networks which advance good health for the whole society; and support healthy development and practices throughout the citizens’ span of life are also within the focus of the Document (Pomeranz & Brownell, 2011). Owing to the fact that obesity is preventable and needs a proactive approach to its eradication at every stage of life in all demographics, the Document is in line with its eradication in the United States.
The Committee’s campaigns to heighten the social causes of the health condition expand the mandate of Healthy People 2020 cuts across its already known disease-specific interventions to the social sectors of the economy where obesity rests. This is especially true considering that obesity is a health condition whose risks factors are more social than medical. The Document urges all stakeholders in the health care sector to channel their effort toward the trajectory of the citizens’ course of life and what needs to be done at all stages of life to improve good health by ecological means.
Above all, and in line with the fight against obesity, the Document urges all stakeholders in the health care industry to focus on the intersectional aspect of what affects the condition (Mehta, & Chang, 2009). The fight against obesity therefore involves inclusion of the best practices in education syllabuses and seminars, advocating for healthy habits in all social setting including at the workplace, and creating public health systems for rolling out healthy programs across the country and neutralizing unhealthy stereotypes such as linking obesity to riches.
Cost of Obesity
Obesity costs the United States a fortune of her economy. Since 1960s, obesity-related health complications have been on a steady rise, including type II diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular complications and disability due to amputations (Xu, Chepyator-Thomson & Culp, 2010; Monteverde, Noronha, Palloni & Novak, 2010). In particular, diabetes, as a condition that co-occurs with obesity is ranked seventh among the leading causes of mortality in the United States. In addition, obesity is also linked to an increased prevalence of health problems among pregnant mothers and when they deliver. Segrave (2008) points out babies born by obese mothers are at a higher risk of dying immediately after they are born. These health complications come at a cost to the US economy.
The yearly health care costs of treating health conditions associated with obesity stand at a whopping $190.2 billion annually (Kirby et al, 2012). The money amounts to more than one-fifth of US’s yearly budget for health care. Obesity in children alone consumes an estimated $14 billion annually direct medical expenditure (Kirby, Liang, Chen, & Wang, 2012). Obesity-related health care costs in general are anticipated to skyrocket, especially because the current obese children will grow into obese adults within the next few years. If obesity prevalence rates were to stand at 2010 levels, the country is expected to save up to $549.5 billion in medical costs by 2030.
Borengasser et al indicate (2014) that the direct and extra hidden costs associated with obesity are hindering the activities of business organizations to contribute more effectively towards better economic growth in the United States. In the ten cities that have recorded the highest rates of obesity, the direct costs associated with the condition and co-occurring health conditions are estimated at $50 million per 100,000 persons (Kirby et al, 2012). If these cities reduced the rate of obesity to optimum levels nationally, they would achieve $500 million in annual medical savings annually.
Apart from the rising costs linked to obesity, the country will have to grapple with increasing costs of managing related disability and funding for welfare programs. In addition, businesses are reeling in economic losses due to absenteeism and sluggishness in the workplace caused by or related to obesity, with $4.3 billion in lost productivity being registered annually (Kirby et al, 2012). Unfortunately, these costs are expected to increase as more cases of obesity continue to be diagnosed due to poor dietary practices and sedentary lifestyles among Americans.
The increasing trend of obesity and massive costs stemming of health care and lost productivity have prompted different stakeholders in the United States to step up anti-obesity campaigns with the aim of creating a healthy nation and lowering the costs. Since 2010, many Americans had shown their proactivity in leading healthy lifestyles as a way of curbing obesity in the country (Kirby et al, 2012). The achievements revolve around voluntary health practices including proper dietary practices, and implementing bans on unhealthy foods in vulnerable population segments. Regardless of these efforts, Pomeranz and Brownell (2011) have indicated that there has been a substantial rise in the population of American citizens who enter the category of the extremely obese. This category consists of persons with about 100 pounds of weight above the healthy standards.
In light of the setbacks, different organizations have been at the forefront in the fight against obesity in the United States (Segrave, 2008). For instance, in 2006, the American Beverage Association consisting of key stakeholders like Cadbury Schweppes, PepsiCo and Coca Cola welcomed the idea of banning drinks rich in calories and those packed in large containers in lower learning institutions to curb obesity in children. In addition, HealthCorps is a charity organization whose aim is to enlighten people about healthy dietary practices in an attempt to curb obesity. Yet, the US First Lady Michelle Obama is championing a program to eradicate obesity in children through the “Let’s Move” slogan. The initiative which supports walking or cycling to school is expected go a long way in creating healthy adults in future (Kirby et al (2012).
According to Marchese and Healey (2008), despite the need to step up anti-obesity campaigns being hatched as early as 1999 by key producers of processed food in the United States, such interventions to limit unhealthy substances in food have not yielded any significant outcomes due to the business risk of losses. For instance, preventing obesity by limiting the quantity of salt, fat and sugar in a fast food item will reduce its taste and precipitate losses for the producer.
Obesity is a health condition that is preventable, but whose management consumes a substantial amount of the US health care budget due to conflict between business and health. The heavy costs informed the creation of Healthy People 2020 whose mission is to press for vital interventions aimed at keeping the population healthy and achieve high life expectancy. Meanwhile, obesity continues to be a leading cause of death in the United States country due to the increase of its co-occurring health conditions. The government, for-profit and charity organizations should coalesce in an effort to create more public awareness on the risk factors of obesity and push for the adoption of legislations reining in uncontrolled production of unhealthy foods particularly for children. Children should be exposed to information on how they should live healthy lives in school and throughout their development. Above all, the government should give incentives to food manufacturers that produce healthy foods to motivate them into reducing junk foods in the shelves.
- Borengasser, S.J., Kang, P., Faske, J., Gomez-Acevedo, H., Blackburn, M.L., Badger, T.M., & Shankar, K. (2014). High fat diet and in utero exposure to maternal obesity disrupts ircadian rhythm and leads to metabolic programming of liver in rat offspring. Plos One, 9(1), e84209.
- Campos, P.F. (2004). The Obesity Myth: Why America’s Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health. New York: Penguin.
- Kirby, J.B., Liang, L., Chen, H., & Wang, Y. (2012). Race, Place, and Obesity: The Complex Relationships among Community Racial/Ethnic Composition, Individual Race/Ethnicity, and Obesity in the United States. American Journal of Public Health, 102(8), 1572-1578.
- Marchese, M.C.,& Healey, B.J. (2008). Addressing Employee Obesity in The United States. Academy of Health Care Management Journal, 4(2), 1-21.
- Mehta, N.K, & Chang, V.W. (2009). Mortality attributable to obesity among middle-aged adults in the United States. Demography, 46(4), 851-72.
- Monteverde, M., Noronha, K., Palloni, A., & Novak, B. (2010). Obesity and excess mortality among the elderly in the United States and Mexico. Demography, 47(1), 79-96.
- Pomeranz, J.L., & Brownell, K.D. (2011). Advancing Public Health Obesity Policy Through State Attorneys General. American Journal of Public Health, 101(3), 425-431.
- Segrave, K. (2008). Obesity in America, 1850-1939: A History of Social Attitudes and Treatment. New York: McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub, 2008
- Xu, F., Chepyator-Thomson, J.R., & Culp, B. (2010). School-based Physical Education Programs and Obesity in the United States: Trends, Rationalizations, and Perspectives of Change. Educational Research Journal, 25(2), 241-262.