Obesity: Where are we and where do we go from here?
Blog Material Written By: Corey Edmonds, MPH, CHES, CHW
According to the World Health Organization, “overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health. A body mass index (BMI) over 25 is considered overweight, and over 30 is obese. The issue has grown to epidemic proportions, with over 4 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese in 2017” (WHO, 2022). What is becoming more alarming is the increase in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. In fact, over the past 40 years, the number of children and adolescents that are overweight or obese has increased by more than 14% world wide (WHO, 2020). While obesity itself does not have any direct signs or symptoms, being overweight or obese can lead to a variety of issues, such as musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, blindness, limb amputations, kidney failure and the need for dialysis, stroke, heart disease, and a whole range of cancers.
Not only is obesity common, but it is very costly as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United States alone spends more than $147 billion annually on obesity-related healthcare. Some cases of obesity can be blamed on genetics, but the majority of obesity cases are a result of poor diet and a lack of being physically active. The CDC also contends that fewer than 1 in every 10 children and adults in the United States eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables; fewer than 1 in 4 youth get enough physical activity; and just 1 in 4 adults meet the physical activity guidelines. While much of this can be attributed to personal choices, many people don’t even have that luxury. More than half of all Americans do not live within walking distance to a park where they can safely be physically active and some 40% of all U.S. households do not live within 1 mile of a retailer that sells healthy produce (CDC, 2022).
So, how can we work to reduce instances of obesity and its impacts? Maintaining a healthy diet and getting appropriate amounts of physical activity are imperative. It is best to talk with your doctor or health care provider about what type of diet and how much physical activity may be right for you, given your current health profile. No one recommendation is right for everyone. However, there is much that can be done beyond the personal level. For instance, we can make every effort to vote for public representatives that will fight for equitable access to public spaces that promote physical activity and business models that prioritize strategic placement of stores that sell healthy produce at affordable prices. We can fight to make sure our public schools are serving healthy foods and allowing adequate time for our children to be physically active. Something as simple as the presence of well-maintained sidewalks in our neighborhoods can make such a huge difference in the fight towards obesity.
For more information on obesity, visit the following link(s):
For more information on physical activity, visit the following link(s):
For more information on proper nutrition, visit the following link(s):
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2022). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Overweight & Obesity. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/index.html
- World Health Organization (WHO). (2022). World Health Organization: Obesity. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/health-topics/obesity#tab=tab_1