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Clegg: The costs of obesity

BY CHRIS CLEGG | MARCH 24, 2015 5:00 AM

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It is hard to believe that in a world in which 805 million people go to bed starving each night, more than twice that number of individuals can be categorized as obese, according to a report by the McKinsey Global Institute released in November 2014.

The report showed that, globally, moer than 2 billion people (yes, that’s billion with a B) fall under the category of “obese or overweight,” while taxpayers often pay the price for it. This price is a steep one. McKinsey finds that nearly $2 trillion worth of treatment goes into this “disease” each year, composing nearly 3 percent of the world’s GDP. Furthermore, obesity is second only to tobacco in the category of preventable deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Not only has obesity permeated its way across America and the rest of the developed world, but its prevalence can also be seen right here in Iowa.

Iowa is the 12th-fattest state in America for adults and 14th-fattest state for children, according to stateofobesity.org, an organization that tracks obesity data and statistics across individual states.

Along with being one of the 15-fattest states, stateofobesity.org ranks us 30th among states in “current adult diabetes rate” and 26th in “current adult hypertension rate.”

These statistics, along with the “obesity epidemic” fueled by fast food and even faster choices that has been sweeping across the country in the past decade put us on pace to not only become the fattest nation in the world (we’re currently second behind Mexico) but the fattest nation in history. 

This is one milestone that I really hope stays out of American-history classes in the future, but in order to accomplish this, we have to start emphasizing the necessity of healthy living not for the sake of the individual but for the sake of the country as a whole.

In order to slash the amount of money we are allocating toward obesity treatment, we should tailor our education system to highlight the negative consequences of obesity on more than just an individual level.  It is important to inform young people how raising obesity rates directly correlate with rising health-care costs and that rising health-care costs affect everyone, not just the people who benefit from the services.

Additionally, this information should be required throughout numerous different grade levels, as opposed to the single required “health” class you were probably forced to take in seventh or eighth grade.  By making personal health a priority and consistently doing so at a young age, hopefully, our education system can be used as a vehicle to drive future generations into an era not marked by excessive body-fat indices. 

Much like how climate change and rising sea levels are recognized issues but don’t generate enough bipartisan support to be addressed, obesity is a recorded epidemic that doesn’t seem to be important in the eyes of the American public or government.  Issues such as these need to be swept from under the metaphorical rug of ignorance and be cleaned up before a hole from all that ignored buildup rips through our floor and creates something we cannot fix.


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