Obesity is a well documented problem in the United States. Every year, billions of dollars are spent on this epidemic and the plethora of diseases and issues it causes. This has been shown to be a problem at the state as well as the national level. In order to better understand the impact it has, we will discuss the issue of obesity as a whole, the problems associated with this disease, the costs of those problems, as well as possible solutions to this growing problem in our country.
For the purposes of this paper, it is important to give reference points with regards to certain key definitions. The generally accepted way of defining obesity is in the National Institutes of Health Weight Classification system. This system relies on the use of BMI as computed using the weight in kilograms divided by the height in meters squared. The following cutoff points are given for the defined words: underweight- BMI < 18.5 kg/m2; normal weight- BMI 18.5 to 24.9 kg/m2; overweight- BMI 25.0 to 29.9 kg/m2; and obese- BMI > 30.0 kg/m2. These benchmarks will be the defined values for the given words throughout this paper.
According to a brief prepared by Dr. Eric Wright for the Indiana Center for Urban Policy and the Environment in May of 2006, nearly 97 million adults in the United States are obese or overweight. That number had doubled in the previous 30 years and is predicted to continue that upward trend. This means that nearly 2 out of every 3 adults in the US are obese or overweight. The surgeon general, Dr. Richard Carmona reported in 2003 that 1 out of every 8 deaths in the US is caused by an illness that is directly correlated to obesity. Obesity is caused by a number of different factors, the main ones being: inactivity, unhealthy eating/ dietary habits, and poor health literacy. Genetics and medication interactions can also play a part in obesity.
When looking more specifically at the demographic breakdown, the CDC reports between 2006 and 2008 that Blacks had the highest number of cases of obesity at 35.7% followed by Hispanics and Whites at 28.7% and 23.7% respectively. These findings can be attributed to the behaviors and social norms that differ between ethnic groups about weight gain, appropriate body weight, as well as disparities in access to healthy foods, and safe environments to exercise. The CDC noted in their study that “the high prevalence of obesity across all the racial/ethnic groups highlights the importance of implementing effective intervention strategies among the general US population.” Additionally, self reported data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, or BRFSS shows that nearly 20% of the total US population are obese, with 21% of Medicare and 30% of Medicaid recipients self-reporting that they were obese.
So why is obesity such a problem? Obesity has been shown to cause many diseases and increase risks for many more. Some of these diseases include coronary heart disease,...