It doesn’t matter how many fat jokes Jay Leno makes in his opening monologue, the expansion of the American waistline is no joke. We are on the threshold of a major public health crisis that will wipe out decades of progress against chronic disease and could bankrupt the nation’s healthcare system.
According to a report from Trust for America’s Health, F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing America, adult obesity continues to rise in 31 states while public health efforts to stem the tide have failed to provide workable solutions. Ranked by state, Mississippi is the heaviest, with an adult obesity rate of almost 30%. Colorado is the leanest, with an adult obesity rate of less that 17%. No state met the 2010 national goal of reducing adult obesity to less than 15%.
Weighing too much is not healthy. We all know that it increases our risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But, did you know:
- A 20 pound increase in a man’s weight may decrease his fertility by 10%
- People who are obese reported sexual problems 25 times more often than people of normal weight
- Survival rates for cancer are lower in overweight individuals
- Being overweight in middle age may put individuals at higher risk for dementia later in life
- Weighing too much may increase the risk of developing skin cancer
- More than 3,000 service man and women are discharged annually because they have exceeded the maximum weight allowed by their branch of the military and approximately 30% of all recruits are rejected because of weight standards
- To avoid tour boat mishaps, the US Coast Guard added 45 pounds to the recommended weight estimates for passengers
- Overweight individuals experience discrimination in educational, occupational, and medical setting, decreasing opportunities and quality of care
- According to the Centers for Disease Control overweight will soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death in the US
- Being overweight at 50 increases the risk for premature death by 20% to 40%; being obese increases the risk by 200% to 300%.
A government report found that 17% of American children now weigh too much, up from 14% in 2000. This is a particularly sad trend because overweight children typically become overweight adults. Many of today’s overweight children face a lifetime of health problems – type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, and orthopedic aliments. Some studies have also shown that excess weight in childhood negatively impacts on school performance and mental health. Overweight children report being lonely. How sad that weight can rob them of the joys of childhood.
While there is no question that personal responsibility is critical to adopting and sustaining healthy behaviors, individual behavior changes cannot occur in isolation. Each and every one of us needs to face this issue head on. It’s important for our health and it is vital to the health of our children. In addition to personal responsibility, there is a need for communities, schools, and local, state, and federal governments to address the problem. For the first time in the history of the world, the number of people how do not have enough to eat is less than the number of people who weigh too much.