How do the words obese and poverty belong in the same sentence? They shouldn’t, and when we see those words together while talking about healthcare, red flags should fly. The prevalence of obesity and its detrimental costs to not only those individuals but the entire population have grown enormously over the past two decades. Obese people spent roughly 37% more on healthcare costs in 2001 than normal weight people did, an increase of 27% for overall healthcare costs since 1987. Of these health costs, nearly 80% went towards diabetes or heart disease. There are a variety of factors that are considered when you look at the increase in obesity, part of which stems from individual poor choices. Researchers are also pointing out today’s environment of which is turning obesogenic, literally a toxic environment which lacks opportunities for physical activity and the plethora of highly processed, highly caloric, low-nutrition foods are widely available.
There are two main concerns here that really stick out to me, one being the number of children that are being raised obese. Their primary source of life skills come from their parents or caretakers who teach them how and what to eat, and are setting them up to experience not only health problems but prejudice and discrimination, which leads to low self-esteem and depression. My second main concern is the fact that the rest of the population has to pay for these people’s poor lifestyle choices. The price of health care for anyone in the US population is astronomical, and is most certainly unaffordable to pay for directly.
In order for the nation to get a grasp on the obesity epidemic and to start making the numbers decline, we need to work on preventative measures first and the support of federal and government agencies is crucial. There are numerous ways one can attack this problem, and I think a highly affective way is to start by decreasing the availability of highly processed foods by subsidies and taxing. This is a preventative measure in that it targets the whole population, but more importantly, children.
Currently there are subsidies on sugars and fats, but none for fruits and veggies. The nation could save a lot of money on health care costs if things like candies, sodas and fried foods were taxed and things like whole foods, fruits, veggies and grains were much more affordable for the average consumer. Price control is a tool which the USDA needs to use more strongly. Part of the responsibility of the USDA is to make sure that access to wholesome nutritious food is available for all Americans. While increasing funding for technological advancement in food production sounds innovative, this funding should be aimed towards agriculture and farming practices, and should not go towards anything related to highly processed foods. If we end up putting more money into the production of whole foods, there should be a significant payoff in health care savings.
Through all of the reading I have done, I notice that there is a lot of effort, time and money that goes into research and data collection. There are many, many different agencies who conduct research, collect research, analyze research. Is there a point at which we can gather enough research and analyze it earlier in the game, discern what we need to and act on it quicker? It seems like over the past decade and a half, we have been talking about the increasing obesity, the increase in childhood obesity, the increase in health care costs related to obesity. We see the problem increasing…do we need to keep putting all of these efforts into researching the increase, or can we act faster by using this time and energy in acting on the problem. Why aren’t there taxes placed on processed foods yet if we know what they cause? Why aren’t their subsidies placed on healthy whole foods yet if we know that they are extremely beneficial for one’s health? Because the process of creating a bill and getting it passed by congress takes so long? There has got to be an easier, faster way. Humans have made things way too complicated and should focus on a more simple lifestyle.