Combating Obesity with Policy Change

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The prevalence of overweight and obesity have been rising steadily throughout the years and nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in the Southern United States.  In this area the majority of states have an obesity prevalence of 30% or more, which comes with increased morbidity and mortality and a huge economic burden. 

One major cause for this rapid weight gain is the fact that healthy foods are often less available than unhealthy foods; unhealthy foods are cheaper, and in many areas much easier to gain access to. 

To alter this ongoing rise in obesity prevalence a policy change must be made to ensure that eating poorly is no longer the easiest choice to make. As proposed by others previously, a tax placed on foods over a certain fat or caloric benchmark could spark many changes that could create a healthier atmosphere in the south. It has been shown that taxing unhealthy foods and beverages will successfully discourage individuals from purchasing them. This tax may also bring about such a change in individuals buy habits that restaurants would be encouraged to provide healthier options. Many states have already put this tactic to use, but the majority made the error of using the revenue for non-obesity needs. The revenue generated from this tax should be used to enhance the availability of healthy foods and areas for physical activity along with funding weight loss programs.

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8 Responses to “Combating Obesity with Policy Change”

  1. mateo8480 Says:

    I agree with you that obesity is a significant problem facing the United States. The rates of obesity has continued to raise every year. As you mentioned obesity is significant problem in the South (aka the Stoke Belt). It the US could control obesity the country as a whole could save thousands of dollars in healthcare costs. Obesity is the result of heart attacks, strokes, and other health related diseases. I would be in favor of taxing unhealthy food, but I think there should be an incentive to choice healthier foods. I love high quality fruits and vegetables, but they are always more expensive than unhealthy foods. I can afford these types of foods but many in the South can not afford these foods and choice the unhealthier foods because they are cheaper. The US has been trying to educate people about choices and now with new calorie counts in restaurants provides a good starting point for policy changes. However, a multifaceted approach will need to be used to control obesity in the US. Some con ties in Europe have one of the lowest obesity rates and a good starting point is to understand why that is.

  2. sbfphc Says:

    This is an issue that requires multiple policy changes, but the tax is one place to start. We need to be realistic about other stakeholders. The Restaurant Association will certainly be a bit alarmed about another tax. Recent reports are then even when health/nutrition information is available on menus, consumers do not always pay attention.

  3. iikoiwak09 Says:

    Measures to reduce the prevalence of obesity should take into cognizance the food culture of the different parts of the country. Policies should not focus on forcing a behavior change, rather individuals should be educated on healthier food choices as well as other ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

    • ctyhuang Says:

      I agree with your comment and would like to take it a step further. I enjoy Southern cooking immensely, and from the cuisine I’ve had, there doesn’t seem to be a place for fresh fruits and vegetables in their natural state. So while I understand this tax is a starting point, we must also consider ways to have nutritious food incorporated into the regional cuisine. Otherwise, opportunities for uptake will remain low, possibly even if the supply is there.

  4. prm321 Says:

    Yet another extension of the so-called ‘sin’ tax idea, and a very good one. Along with alcohol, tobacco, unhealthy foods which promote obesity, I’d go even further and suggest that many societal behaviors which impact us negatively might be addressed in this way (e.g, excessive reliance upon automobiles via higher gas taxes). In all cases, there will be alarmed stakeholders, but the effective legislator will make the argument through objective analyses of upsides and downsides.

  5. cezekiel Says:

    While there is no doubt that obesity and overweight are major public health problems in the United States, I think that we need to take a more holistic and sustainable approach to finding a solution (something that involves a multi-level lifestyle approach, for example), rather than simply attempting to change people’s food-purchasing habits. Additionally, we need to be careful not to unfairly target certain sectors of the population – e.g. low-income, underserved communities – who consume large amounts of these potentially taxable foods and beverages and who do not have the resources to pay additional taxes to the federal government. On a more local level, the state of Arizona is currently considering adopting a $50 annual fee for Medicaid patients who smoke or are obese which has sparked a colourful, ongoing debate regarding health and socioeconomic status.

  6. oyuguero Says:

    I think that the tax is a good idea, but I suppose that would be difficult to convince restaurants and consumers (and more in the actual economic situation). As other people have said, I think that the tax is one of the measures, like change habits. Probably it will be a good idea to increase the importance of physical education and the practice of sport. Probably the revenue could be spent in any loan to inscribe in a Gym or to develop specific sport programms for obese children. I think that another factor is to show that do sport is not a punishment, is a opportunity to have fun!

  7. ophezm Says:

    Finally, obesity is being understood as a major public health problem worldwide. Obesity has been declared an epidemic in USA. How about children? How much is the cost for treating obesity and/or its associated co-morbidities (Diabetes, hypertension, Coronary Heart disease, Liver disease) in USA?
    The percentage of overweight children in the USA is growing at an alarming rate, with 1 out of 3 kids now considered overweight or obese. Obesity is among the easiest medical conditions to recognize but most difficult to treat. Unhealthy weight gain due to poor diet and lack of exercise is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year.
    Children are spending less time exercising and more time in front of the TV, computer, or playing with their video-games for long periods of time without supervision. In addition, busy families have fewer free moments to prepare nutritious, home-cooked meals. Overweight children are much more likely to become overweight adults unless they adopt and maintain healthier patterns of eating and exercise.
    For the first time, a first lady called everybody across the country to join her “let’s move campaign” to solve the problems of childhood obesity. I am talking about Mrs. Obama. Her program was designed to encourage authorities to adopt long-term, sustainable, and holistic approaches to fight childhood obesity.
    I certainly believe that obesity prevention programs must target children, re-educating them to eat better, at home and at school. In addition they should emphasize the importance of exercising. Children are not in charge to go to the grocery store and buy healthy or unhealthy food, parents do. Parents must take seriously their role (as parents) and control what their children are eating every day. The law must protect children against obesity which will take quality years of life from them. I do not agree with the idea of increasing taxes for unhealthy foods to discourage people from buying them.

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