Reducing Obesity

The Challenge

Obesity is not a life sentence.

Over the past decades, rates of obesity have soared worldwide and particularly in developing countries. There are many reasons for this change, but one of the main causes is poor nutrition. Most people know how to live a healthy lifestyle, but the prevalence of unhealthy foods exacerbates the issue. Many deaths each year are a result of preventable diseases caused by obesity.  Heart disease, breathing problems, and Type 2 diabetes are all very dangerous and can be caused by obesity. More than a third of Americans are obese or overweight, and the number is growing. The deaths caused by obesity are even more regrettable as the condition can easily be avoided. In many cases, it’s a case of knowing what we should do, but not doing it. How can this problem be solved?

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Reducing Obesity

A Growing Concern

Obesity is becoming more prevalent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States, the prevalence of obesity was 39.8% and affected about 93.3 million U.S. adults in 2015-2016. Also the estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008 U.S. dollars; the medical cost for people who have obesity was $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, and obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

The World Health Organization states that over 1 billion people are overweight. As well they wrote, obesity is a complex condition, one with serious social and psychological dimensions, that affects virtually all age and socioeconomic groups and threatens to overwhelm both developed and developing countries. In 1995, there were an estimated 200 million obese adults worldwide and another 18 million under-five children classified as overweight. As of 2000, the number of obese adults has increased to over 300 million. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; in developing countries, it is estimated that over 115 million people suffer from obesity-related problems.

What We Are Doing

Encouraging a healthy lifestyle is a primary way of solving obesity, and many charities seek to increase education on obesity prevention and treatment. Treatment of obesity is much harder on the individual than prevention. Treating obesity involves months or even years of commitment to weight loss. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight has proven to be very hard for the obese.

Other than traditional weight loss through diet and exercise, there are new types of surgeries that have been developed to aid the obese. Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy, which removes part of the stomach, and Adjustable Gastric Band, which shrinks the stomach are some of the proven ways to help obese people lose weight. The problem with these surgeries is that they have side effects, and they are expensive and often not covered by insurance.

Preventing obesity is the most effective strategy in reducing the problem worldwide. With treatment being either very costly or physically taxing, stopping obesity before it starts does the most good with no cost to the people involved. A healthy diet and light exercise can combat obesity on a personal level.

Public programs and healthy lunches in school can set an example of what helps the most in keeping people from becoming obese. Social programs have been shown to have varying effectiveness, though they can still be a useful tool. Health insurance companies also give lower rates to those at a healthy weight in countries without universal healthcare, like the United States.

What Needs to be Done

Much is being done to combat obesity, with programs in place telling people what to do. Some of these programs seem to be working, but the problem, and our waistlines, still grow. Every year, too many people are dying unnecessarily due to obesity.

Doctors in the future will be able to design diets for specific people and that fact should greatly reduce obesity. Multinational corporations selling unhealthy foods need to curb their advertising to children. Companies moving into developing countries should carefully access their impact on local health. Most often regional foods and portions are much healthier than those advertised by fast food companies. Items like soda could be more regulated as they contain mostly sugar and are known to cause obesity. Countries may also enact health programs to help individuals. Companies could also give incentives for losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight.

A Healthier Tomorrow

Obesity is a preventable health problem that does not need to persist in the future. Through advancements in advocacy, education, and health technology, obesity can be eliminated. Doctors have already started researching personalized meal planning and with genetic testing, we will be able to determine who is most at risk. There are many options available to put an end to obesity and someday that goal will come into fruition. 

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