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Editorial: Still a long way to go in obesity fight

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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With a host of domestic- and foreign-policy issues crowding into the public consciousness, one has largely remained unnoticed in the past few years: obesity. But with a new initiative, that could change.

At the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting held Tuesday, some of the world’s top producers of soft drinks promised a 20 percent reduction in the number of calories in their products by 2025.

In attendance at the meeting was the trade union American Beverage Association, composed of big-name beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation (an organization that focuses on child health and fighting obesity). The talks between the two resulted in a plan to reduce the number of calories in their products alongside initiatives to promote nutritional education and healthier alternatives among targeted communities.

This is welcome news, because the nation’s health is still a cause of concern for many. Great effort has been made to combat obesity in the nation, which has seen an overall rise in past years.

Initiatives such as Let’s Move, spearheaded by first lady Michelle Obama, encourages a culture of healthy eating and physical activity among the youth. Across the nation, the imperative nature of this issue has become widespread with school systems, government agencies, and communities rallying to combat obesity.

Despite efforts such as having public schools serve healthier food and an increased emphasis on dietary awareness, the nation has not seen a real decline in the number of people considered obese.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. obesity rate is 34.9 percent of the population, approximately 111.68 million people. In Iowa specifically, the rate of adult obesity has risen from 23.4 percent in 2004 to 31.3 percent in 2013 according to the State of Obesity.

Looking at these statistics from a global perspective, in which the overall obesity rate of the world is almost twice as much as it was 30 years ago, can make them look even more grim.

Reducing these numbers requires not only the enhanced efforts of programs and initiatives from people such as Michelle Obama but cooperation with large companies to help the combat the issue together.

A problem as large this cannot be blamed solely on the actions or products of food and beverage corporations even if they do shoulder some of the blame. A reform of not only the products being produced but also the culture of consumption is necessary. That said, the steps being taken by the American Beverage Association are ones that should be applauded and reproduced by other corporations in a similar position. Legislation can be used to force the hands of large corporations into instituting change, but that will only go so far. True progress will come when the conscious efforts of all parties involved in the epidemic of obesity that plagues the nation come together to find a solution.


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