Thursday, August 28, 2008

Curbing Obesity, Is It In Our National Interest?

These days, it is hard to flip through the channels of the television without coming across the next greatest “diet and exercise plan” being marketed in an infomercial. Further, the media is always investing time in preparing informative news articles and conducting interviews concerning obesity in the United States. Even primetime television airs shows such as The Biggest Loser in hopes to motivate our society to be ever more conscious of their health. However, throughout the 2008 Presidential Campaign we have heard politicians on both sides discuss stringent issues from the war in Iraq, to healthcare, to the economic decline. However, these politicians have managed to neglect one of the most popular topics currently discussed—obesity—which is not only affecting adults, but an overwhelming number of youth.
In fact, according to research conducted by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, “Between 16 and 33 percent of children and adolescents are obese.” In adults, the percentages are even higher. Does this not flip on a light bulb America? Obesity is not just about appearing overweight on the outside, but there are detrimental health effects that are related to this epidemic. Some research shows the health effects from obesity are even worse than those from smoking, drinking, and poverty. Diabetes, Hypertension, Osteoarthritis, and Coronary Heart Disease are all diseases linked to obesity just to name few. So, my question is, should curbing obesity be in our national interest?
Politicians always seem to be concerned about the U.S. image abroad which essentially encompasses diverse components. Shouldn’t the appearance of U.S. visitors and vacationers abroad be considered by politicians to a greater degree than ever before? The appearance of U.S. visitors does essentially contribute to the image of the U.S. abroad especially in the twenty-first century when global travel is not just conducted by diplomats and businessmen, but even more so, by vacationers of the U.S. citizenry. I have traveled rather extensively and the overweight American society is one of the topics most forwardly addressed by foreigners. With the rise of over-seas leisure travel, altering the lifestyles of citizens to make them appear to be healthier would certainly be worthwhile to politicians concerning themselves with the U.S. image abroad.
With that being stated, the next step to consider is to what degree should the government play a role in tackling this disease? Implementing healthier food choices in public school lunch menus is certainly a feasible starting point especially regarding the youth; in fact, many local school districts throughout the nation have already taken this initiative. It would be wise for other local school districts to follow in their lead. To another extent, local politicians could promote fitness and dieting within the community alone. One Mayor has already implemented a program such as this in the city of Austin, Texas. Incidentally, it would be beneficial for more research to be conducted about the additives that are put in many of the foods being consumed. Chemicals from hormones to pesticides are put in various foods, could an overconsumption of these chemicals possibly be contributing to obesity?
In any event, if obesity is so critical, and that’s what medical doctors and researchers are telling us then why haven’t U.S. politicians addressed this topic? The movement to tackle obesity has already begun, but it is only in the early stages. A little political leadership assistance would not only help carry out the obesity initiative but it would also play an important role in promoting a healthier U.S. population at home and in the image of those abroad.


Robert Farley said...

There's a ton of conflicting research on obesity; one of my co-bloggers writes a lot about obesity (he's unhappy with it, or more specifically unhappy with its inflation as a serious problem).

But yeah, interestingly enough the first national health care systems developed in response to the need for fit soldiers, so there's certainlya natsec connection.

Doria said...

As a teenager, I am well aware of the effects of obesity on youth. While there are countless commercials featuring the latest diet and exercise plan, there are even more advertising the very meals and companies that are part of the problem (i.e McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc). I think that it would be extremely beneficial for the government (local, state, or federal) to implement some kind of standards for the food sold in schools. As a member of the Slow Food Movement, I can't advocate more the necessity of fresh foods that are healthy for people and the environment. I can't wait until there are veggies sold at my school rather than cookies, pizza, and soda.