By Tanish Pradhan
Americans can breathe a sigh of relief as their long-standing obesity crisis may have come to an end. A 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has suggested that the national obesity rates in the US have begun to level off, especially in children.
The report highlights that only four states have shown a rise in obesity rates in the past year, whereas, the state of Kansas has shown a very promising decline. In a country where 1 in 3 adults are overweight, the new trends are a ray of hope. The report stated that between the years 2015 and 2016, adult obesity rates remained stable in 45 states and increased in just four states, namely-Colorado, Minnesota, Washington and West Virginia. The trend seen with regard to obesity in the US has always been that of an alarming increase. Prior to the last year’s drop in obesity rates in the four states of Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio, not a single state had ever seen a downward trend in their obesity rates. In 2006, obesity rates went up in as many as 31 states, whereas in 2010 they had risen in 16 states.
Kansas setting an example
The average obesity rate in Kansas declined from 34.2% to 31.2% in 2015, dropping from 7 to 22 on the list of states with the highest obesity rates. Don Schwarz, Vice President of the co-sponsor of the report, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said that the decline in cases of obesity in Kansas could be attributed to a state-wide program to assist businesses with obesity-prevention efforts, although it’s usually incredibly hard to pinpoint the reason for fluctuations in obesity rates. Even though the overall rate declined, a wide disparity in fluctuations could be seen when trends were assessed while taking age, gender and race into consideration. The report also highlighted the stabilisation of the child obesity rates in the US. It said that the obesity rate of youth between the age of 2-19 holds firm at 17%. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association claimed that the obesity rates in infants between the ages of 2-5 have declined by 40% between 2003 and 2012. This can be attributed largely to nationwide efforts towards bringing healthier foods and beverages to schools across the country.
Still a long way to go
While the reasons behind the stabilisation of obesity rates remain a mystery, theories attempting to explain it range from an increase in breastfeeding to the drop in calories in sugary beverages. National programs to spread awareness regarding appropriate nutritional habits and the harms of obesity also seem to be affecting the way people take obesity into consideration while making dietary and lifestyle choices. While it may seem like the scales are tipping and that obesity may become a thing of the past soon, critics warn that obesity still poses a dire threat to the nation. The stabilisation of obesity rates may seem like a victory, but efforts to further reduce the numbers must be continuous and just as motivated.
Obesity has an immense effect on the nation and its people. It can increase the risk of coronary diseases, high blood pressure, may cause migraines, may affect the menstrual cycle and can even lead to infertility. Moreover, it comes attached with a host of secondary issues such as social isolation, self-confidence, body image issues and depression. An obese person in the US spends up to $1429 more than an average American does in medical expenses. Furthermore, an annual expenditure of over 147 billion dollars is seen nationally as additional medical expenses for combatting illnesses that are direct resultants of obesity.
Efforts to tackle the obesity endemic will need to be strategically planned and must include the government, communities and the individual households. Ideas to help bring an organic change in people’s fitness levels are plentiful. Awareness projects to teach people about the risks associated with being overweight and methods to prevent obesity must be instituted. Better fitness related infrastructure such as parks, gyms and sports facilities must be developed. Companies should aim to produce healthier products in the food and beverages sector. Schools should be included in the enforcement of healthy diets in youngsters. More importantly, healthier foods should be made accessible to the public to replace fast foods and unhealthy packaged goods
The indiscriminate rate at which obesity has grown and spread in the US in the past decade makes it seem to be an actual threat to the overall health of the average American. The decline in the past two years, however, is a reason to be optimistic that the situation can be turned around. While a long road lies ahead of them, we should laud their efforts today.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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