The past two weeks have been filled with talk of "the obesity epidemic" and the "Weight of the Nation." Last week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hosted a "Weight of the Nation" conference in D.C. and this week, HBO premiered its four-part mini-series, Weight of the Nation. Stepping to the same rhythm, the Institute of Medicine released a new report this week, “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation.”
The continuous stream of Weight of the Nation events and reports focus on one main point: Americans are in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Two-thirds of adults and one-third of children in the United States are categorized as either overweight or obese. How in the world did we, as a nation, get to a point where the majority of our population falls into one of these two unhealthy categories? Obesity-related illness treatments cost an estimated $150 billion annually and obesity is the second leading causes of preventable death in the country. It's no small matter. Researchers estimate that costs will rise to over $500 billion by 2030.
HBO's Weight of the Nation mini-series, available online for free, profiles overweight and obese individuals and their families, talks to farmers, looks at nutrition in schools, and so much more. Following the slogan, "to win, we have to lose," the films discuss what can be done in the long run to quell the epidemic. If you want solutions, this film isn't necessarily the place to go. However, it does a great job at profiling the problem and reminding us of all the forces that have come together to create this epidemic.
In addition to HBO's mini-series, The Institute of Medicine's report provides a detailed look at the epidemic. According to the Institute, the problem is not just an individual one, but also a societal one. Each person plays a role in the epidemic. "We can't sit back and let the schools do it, or let a mayor do it or think somehow the federal government's going to solve it," says report co-author William Purcell III. The IOMs recommendations require a "concerted effort among all." With a focus on cohesive strategies for change, the report offers a multitude of solutions to a grandiose problem.
Here are a few great articles that summarize the past two weeks happenings and break down the obesity epidemic, all in their own unique manner.
A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity, New York Times
There is an obesity epidemic. It is clear as we look around each and every day. Fast food is abundant. Sedentary lifestyles are the norm. School lunches consist of processed, sugary foods. Healthcare costs are climbing. Rates of diabetes are staggering. Food policy in this country - i.e. The Farm Bill - places emphasis on all the wrong things. The food and beverage industry is so large, the fight isn't even fair. Figuring out how to move forwards, to work towards a solution, to reverse this epidemic should be the focus for every person, every organization, and most certainly for our government. While you work to make sense of your role in lowering the "Weight of the Nation," take a look at this outstanding infographic put out by the Institute of Medicine. Learn the facts, understand the solutions, and take a step towards playing an active role in the fight against this deadly epidemic.