Today, the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released the 6th annual version of their study called "F as in Fat, 2009."
Well, simply put, too many Americans are too fat. The obesity epidemic is threatening our health care system and the productivity of our country as a whole.
I guess this isn't really a surprise, but a few facts that blew me away:
- Currently, two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight.
- In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average for adult obesity was 15 percent.
- Childhood obesity rates have more than tripled since 1980.
- 9 of the 10 states with the highest rates of obese and overweight children are also states that rank as having the highest rates in poverty. (Ok, we know there is a correlation between poverty and obesity but that fact sure drives the point home, eh?)
To me, this is an outrageous problem. I'm pissed. But, I'm not sure where to direct that outrage.
Natalie pointed out a recent story for me that serves as a great analogy for my outrage direction dilemma. Recently, a Baltimore mother was charged with neglect when authorities deemed her 14 year old son's weight had become a major concern. The kid weighed 555 pounds.
That level of obesity, like the level of obesity in America as a whole, is crazy. But, who is at fault?
The mother? Maybe, but the poor lady worked multiple low wage jobs and probably didn't know how to handle her son's problem. She says that she couldn't make the many appointments that social service officials tried to make her attend to get her son's weight under control. She couldn't afford the gas.
The son? I mean, 14 is old enough to know when to stop, right? But then I think that the poor guy probably wasn't having an easy time with his mom gone all the time working these jobs to try to make ends meet. Maybe he was eating as a comfort. Maybe no one ever taught him how to address loneliness or emotional difficulties in a healthy way.
What about social service officials? They claim they tried to intervene but that the mother wouldn't cooperate. But what I want to know is, how realistic were the demands they placed on her given her level of poverty and lack of free time?
In the end, the blame for this kid's obesity, like our nation's, could go a lot of places. The full version of F as in Fat 2009 study calls primarily on the US Government to step in and take control of America's weight problem but I'm not totally convinced. While legislative reform is important, it can also be very slow and in this case might seem a bit too Big Brother if administered incorrectly.
I am still a fan of quiet dinner table revolutions. I think we might be able to see more tangible, personal change that strengthens our communities if we step up as individuals to lead by example in our various spheres of influence.