Obesity. We all recognize the word that has been splashed across newspapers and television screens for the past decade, but do we ever stop to really think about just how much weight the word carries (pun intended)?
According to Medical News Today, someone who suffers from obesity has accumulated so much fat that it may have a negative impact on their health. Technically speaking, someone with a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more is considered obese. According to healthyamericans.org, adult obesity rates have doubled in the last three decades and show no signs of slowing down. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this number has more than doubled in children, and tripled in adolescents. As of 2014 more than 25% of health care costs are related to obesity. The U.S. is considered an advanced, first world country yet we continue to shell out countless billions to treat obesity. Moreover, countless Americans continue to succumb to this lifestyle-preventable chronic disease.
A few countries in Europe have taken tremendous strides in cutting down the growing number of obesity victims. Taxes on sugar, soda and junk food have become the norm in hopes of curbing mass consumption. Mexico has taken the largest leaps in the health crusade and is now at the forefront. According to the Huffington Post, along with taxing sweets and sugary beverages, Mexico has taken to clearly labeling healthy and unhealthy foods on the front of their packages. Some packaging even has a color system: green for healthy, yellow for moderately healthy, and red for unhealthy. Furthermore, Mexico has curbed the marketing of food to young children and now offers only healthy food in their schools. Shouldn’t we follow in their footsteps? In order to have a cohesive, functioning society, there needs to be a healthy, thriving populus.
The American government, in my opinion, should be racing to catch up with countries like Mexico; if not for the sake of its own people, then at least in the spirit of healthy competition. I believe that healthy and organic options should be made more accessible. Additionally, I think health and nutrition classes should be mandatory in elementary and middle school. I do think that there is a certain amount of personal responsibility for one’s own nutrition, of course; that being said, the advertisement and food industries and the FDA should strive to have a positive impact on society. The U.S. government seems to ally themselves with the fast food industry and treats its citizens like a business. The fear of the backlash that might ensue from reforming the junk food industry, and the possible revenue loss, scares the government into silence; they would rather risk our health than a few extra dollars. In fact, the cost of an unhealthy or frozen school lunch costs just as much as a healthy, freshly prepared lunch. A San Antonio-led national study of 42 middle schools across the country found better cafeteria offerings and improved physical education could reduce obesity rates for children at the highest risk of diabetes. Dr. Roberto Treviño, principal investigator of the federally funded HEALTHY study, said an analysis showed cafeteria profits at schools offering healthier lunch lines actually were a bit higher.
So what is holding America back? Should the U.S. follow in Mexico’s example? I think the clear and obvious answer is yes. When asked their opinion, other USF students had a lot to say. Beth McCall, a freshman, agrees that the U.S. should follow in Mexico’s footsteps but is aware that change cannot happen overnight. “Our nation is so polarized in national agenda and priority. With a smaller nation like Norway, becoming progressive like that is a bit easier. Just look at their practically nonexistent homeless rates. But the US is large and I feel like the biggest war we will face in progressive issues is ourselves.”
Junior Peter Nguyen also favored Mexico’s new health policies. “I believe the U.S. should do the same, because of children’s health over corporate wealth. Young children are experiencing health risks that should be occurring later in life. 1 out of 3 American children born today are likely to contract Type II Diabetes and the risk increases to 1 out of 2 in people of color. Big corporate companies are making profit by feeding us unhealthy food and drink options.”
So rat her than enlarging coffins, doorways, beds etc., America should be expanding its possibilities and opening up its mind to healthier alternatives. Obesity is a one hundred percent preventable disease. I believe we must shape-up and put in the work to create a healthier America.