Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Fat of the Land

Obesity is a mental state, a disease brought on by boredom and disappointment. Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signaling to be let out.

Cyril Vernon Connolly, 1903-1974, The Unquiet Grave, 1945

It’s official now. The Center for Disease Control has declared war on Obesity. Small wonder. Obesity is now one of the ten leading causes of death.

Here is the situation, as expressed in a July 29 Wall Street Journal Blog,

The medical costs of treating obesity-related diseases may have soared as high as $147 billion in 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday, as its new director set a fresh tone in favor of more aggressively attacking obesity.
The cost of treating obesity doubled over a decade, signaling the rising prevalence of excess weight and the toll it is taking on the health-care system. The medical costs of obesity were estimated to be $74 billion in 1998, according to a study by federal government researchers and RTI International, a nonprofit research institute in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

The findings were released at a conference on obesity held by the CDC in Washington, D.C. The prevalence of obesity rose 37% between 1998 and 2006, and medical costs climbed to about 9.1% of all U.S. medical costs, the researchers said.
Obese people spent 42% more than people of normal weight on medical costs in 2006, a difference of $1,429, the study found. Prescription drugs accounted for much of the increase.

The numbers underscore the urgent need for deeper interventions in society and the environment that will make it easier for people to maintain normal weight, Thomas Frieden, the CDC’s new director, told conference attendees. While obesity rates among some population groups have shown signs of leveling off, that is of little comfort, he said: The average American is about 23 pounds overweight. Obesity is causing disabilities and exacerbating health disparities, he said. The average American consumes about 250 calories more a day now than two or three decades ago.
“Obesity and with it diabetes are the only major health problems that are getting worse in this country, and they’re getting worse rapidly,” he said.

Change is needed on many fronts, he added. “Reversing obesity is not going to be done successfully with individual effort.”

Conducting War on Obesity

But how do conduct a war on obesity?

• Do you tax fast junk food, sweet beverages, candy, and sugar-laden processed foods more heavily?

• Do you label all foods with stark warnings and compelling information about the dangers of obesity?

• Do you conduct a national publicity campaign informing the public of the health dangers of obesity? Do you warn of the dangers of developing diabetes, heart disease, and osteoarthritic knees? Do you teach everyone how to calculate their body mass index (BMI), and if its ever 30, tell them they're fat ant eat less and exercise more?

• Do you promote the virtues of bariatric surgery, which is effective and which may render morbidly obese diabetics non-diabetic?

• Do you launch a nationwide campaign of weighing school kids, measuring their BMIs ( Body Mass Indices), and taking steps in public schools to reverse childhood obesity, such as re-introducing recess?

• Do you identify those who are likely to be become morbidly obese (more than 100 pounds overweight? In percentage terms, these include all women (6.30%) and non-Hispanic women (15.10%).

• Do you try to wean or pry people loose from television, computers, Ipods, and cars?

• Do you distribute pedometers to sedentary populations, as you might distribute condoms to the sexually active?

• Do you publicize people like Governor Huckabee, a formerly morbidly obese individual who lost more than 100 pounds and became an presidential candidate?

• Do you frown on people like Regina Benjamin, MD,an obese physician who President Obama recently appointed Surgeon General?

• Or do you simply offer sympathy, empathy, counseling, and emotional support to the obese?

In the end, it comes down to this simple question: How do you stop people from digging their premature graves with their own teeth? in other words, how to you help those thin people get out of their those fat bodies?

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