Thursday, September 20, 2012

Obesity in the US: A Burgeoning Crisis

It makes for frightening reading, really.

In the past few years, obesity has been rising rapidly in the United States with the result that today it has reached epidemic proportions.

To make matters worse, a new damning report says that if the current trend continues then by 2030 more than half the population of the United States will be obese!

The report, aptly titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012, says that the number of obese adults will increase dramatically in every state in the country over the next two decades – and along with it related disease rates and health care costs.

The report follows analyses of state-by-state data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention commissioned by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and conducted by the National Heart Forum.

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index above 30, while overweight means a Body Mass Index of between 25 and 29.9.

Obesity increases the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic illnesses.

Key findings of the study:
  • If the obesity rise continues on its current path, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 per cent, 39 states about 50 per cent, and all 50 states could have rates above 44 per cent by 2030.
  • By 2030, Mississippi could become the fattest state in the United States with an obesity rate of 66 per cent with Colorado at the bottom of the ladder with 44.8 per cent – in 2011, the rates were 34.9 per cent and 20.7 per cent, respectively.
  • There could be a 10-fold increase in new cases of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis between 2010 and 2020 – and double that by 2030.
  • Obesity could contribute to more than 6 million case of Type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next two decades. Currently, more than 25 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes, 27 million have chronic heart disease, 69 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis. Besides, 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year and nearly a third of the cancer deaths are related to obesity, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity.
  • Medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year.
  • Loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually.
  • Nine states could see their obesity-related health care costs shoot up by more than 20 per cent with New Jersey seeing the highest increase of 34.5 per cent.
A grim picture, no doubt. However, all is not lost.

The report suggests that the doomsday scenario can be avoided if only the states could reduce the average Body Mass Index of their residents by just 5 per cent by 2030.

“The study shows us two futures for America’s health,” says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“At every level, we must pursue policies that prevent health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs.

“Nothing less is acceptable.”

Trust for America’s health executive director Jeff Levi says increasing physical activity times in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier.

“Small changes can add up to a big difference,” he says.

“Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”

Not a tall order, surely. But there needs to be a national commitment and will.

What more do you think Americans should do to tackle the obesity crisis? Please, leave your comments below.

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