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Obesity: A Public or Private Issue?

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Imagine a world where a school aged child can step out of their school and walk into a McDonalds. A world where soda companies make millions of dollars a year by placing soda machines in schools. A world where 30.5 percent of adults are considered obese. A world where obesity is killing more people than smoking. What if I told you this world is not in your imagination but is the world we live in today?

Where would you turn to seek help for this epidemic? Some say the government should take charge of the situation like in the cases of seatbelt and smoking laws. Others say that it is the responsibility of the private sector. People are responsible for their health, so the government should not be involved. I agree with both sides of the issue. The government should have some control over what people are consuming, but the majority of the responsibility for obesity is in the private sector of America.

Since the 1960's obesity in America has more than tripled regardless of sex or race. Today 30.5 percent, or 69 million, American Adults are considered obese ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). In addition, 13 percent of children aged 6-11 years old are considered overweight, and well on their way to becoming obese. Obesity causes over 300,000 deaths a year and costs the country $117 billion dollars, prompting health care providers and the government to label it an epidemic ("Overweight and Obesity..." np).

The healthcare community defines obesity as being 20 percent or more over a person's ideal body weight, which is based on their height ("U.S. Health Professionals..." np). Usually this is 100 pounds or more over their ideal body weight. Researchers found that the two main causes of obesity are the overabundance of food and people's sedentary lifestyles ("U.S. Health Professionals..." np). Other causes include genetics, lifestyle choices and environmental factors. These alarming statistics have prompted many to seek a solution for a problem that is clearly not going to go away by itself.

Obesity moved across the nation without regard to sex, race, and age, or so it seemed. However, it strikes some groups more than others. Furthermore, 69 percent of non-Hispanic black women are overweight or obese and 58 percent of non-Hispanic black men are overweight or obese ("Overweight and Obesity..." np). Studies show that minorities in a lower socioeconomic bracket are more likely than whites in a higher socioeconomic bracket to become obese ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). It is cheaper to feed five children on $1 fast food hamburgers than it is to feed those same five children a nutritious meal for $25 (Resler np). Since the 1960s the only food not to decrease in price is fruits and vegetables (Marano np).

Obesity also is most likely to occur in the suburbs and the inner cities. African-Americans and Hispanics have higher population rates in the inner city than Whites. People who live in neighborhoods without sidewalks and bike paths, usually those in the city, are less likely to walk or bike anywhere. This leads to an increase in the sedentary lifestyle that is a major cause of obesity ("U.S. Health Professionals..."np). Instead they are forced to use cars and buses to get around and usually do not have access to gyms or places to exercise.

One place in the United States that has the highest rate of obesity is the East South Central U.S. This region includes Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. They have an obesity rate of 22.3 percent among adults ("AOA Fact Sheets" np). While no clear cause for the higher obesity levels in this part of the country has been found two possible causes are there is a higher percentage of African-Americans in the south and the Southern States also tend to eat a higher concentration of fatty foods. West South Central United States, (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana), has the second highest rate of obesity among adults with 22.2 percent.

Obesity brings with it many problems. Obese people have a 50-100 percent chance of dying prematurely and 75 percent of people with hypertension are obese ("Overweight and Obesity..."np). Over 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes are obese ("Overweight and Obesity..." np), which leads the public to see that if you are obese you have a greater chance of developing Type 2 diabetes. For every two pound weight increase your risk of developing arthritis is increased by 9-13 percent. Obesity also leads to a greater chance of developing heart disease and certain types of cancer ("Overweight and Obesity..."np).

Along with the health complications is the financial aspect of obesity. Many obese people claim disability and receive Medicaid ("Obesity Costs..."np). Over nine percent of all healthcare costs last year were to pay for obesity ("Obesity Costs..."np). As taxpayers, even those who are not overweight, we all are all paying for obese people in America. Over $117 billion went towards funding obesity victims ("Overweight and Obesity..."np). That is $117 billion that could be used in other places to prevent and control this epidemic.

Social situations are also a problem for obese people. Many are the butt of jokes and find that stepping into public is hard so the choose to stay home. For those that choose to leave the house many can not find modes of transportation to fit their size, and walking is too difficult. They often get tired easy and find the best way to avoid these situations is to keep their sedentary lifestyles rather than face the world. This also applies in their working world, where many obese people do not show up to work, thereby starting a cycle of living off the government.

Causes of obesity are identified as genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Some cases of obesity stem from Bardt-Biedel syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome. Genetics can also predispose some people to gain weight faster and retain it longer ("Factors Contributing..."np). Some individuals can diet and exercise but they retain the weight. Studies have also shown that some people are susceptible to a high fat intake, especially when exposed to overfeeding (World Health Organization...134-135). Many Americans today have the genetics that predisposes them to retain weight, and in turn, susceptible to high fat intake. They eat the fats but can not rid themselves of it.

According to "The Causes of Obesity" studies with adoptive children show that obesity runs in families. The adoptive children tend to take on the same weight patterns as their biological parents, not their adoptive family. Many researchers are searching for a fat gene, but as of now none of have been found. Although genetics plays a role in obesity, many families share eating habits and lifestyle



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