Editorial: Obesity, our attack from within
By 2030, driverless cars and space travel will be commonplace, futurists predict, but they'll have to haul heavy cargo. In the United States, the majority of people in most states will be obese.
So predicts the Trust for America's Health, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In a report released last week, the trust predicts every state will have at least 44 percent obesity, and most will have an obesity rate above 50 percent. North Carolina's rate is forecast to double from 29 percent to 58 percent. (The Centers for Disease Control says some 31 percent of Rowan adults and 30 percent of Cabarrus adults were obese in 2009.) With the added weight will come more diabetes, heart disease and stroke - and the high medical costs of treating them.
The accuracy of the Trust for America's Health's predictions is up for debate; some of its data depended on people to accurately report their height and weight. But federal health officials have already forecast 42 percent obesity nationwide by 2030, and the trend has been evident for some time. As students of healthy living and nutrition, Americans deserve an "F as in Fat," as the trust's health report card is titled.
The education analogy is an apt one. "The incidence of obesity is closely tied to income and education levels," Scripps Howard News Service recently reported. The more educated and wealthy a person is, the less likely he or she is to let weight get out of control.
Nearly 30 years ago, a study of U.S. public education entitled "A Nation At Risk" famously stated: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."
And so it is with excess weight and unhealthy living. Substitute poor eating for mediocre education, and you have the same result. "We have allowed this to happen to ourselves." The attack comes from within.
There appears to be a disconnect between our slide into excess and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's concern over "food deserts," but poor diet and limited access to fresh food go hand-in-hand. When consumers can't easily get to a supermarket or farmer's market, they often settle for snacks from a convenience store or fast-food fare.
Better that government address issues like food deserts than try to legislate desserts, sodas and so on. What people eat is their own business. Still, there's no denying that nutrition and exercise have become public health issues, because paying for the consequences of obesity weighs on us all.