Obesity is a societal threat

Dante Harrold, Staff Writer

America needs to change how it frames the obesity epidemic from an individual problem to a societal threat. In the last few decades, America’s citizenry has seen a gradual and significant rise in its obesity rate. In 2018 the CDC reported that the adult obesity rates now exceed 35% in seven states, 30% in 29 states, and 25% in 48 states and the annual nationwide productive costs of obesity obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual).

Society as a whole has failed to take the necessary steps that involve broad strict systemic changes needed to reverse this trend, and instead has largely blamed the obesity epidemic as being a result of individuals lacking virtue or as more people simply becoming lazy and gluttonous being the cause for the health crisis.

This approach to the obesity epidemic proves to be ludicrous when considering the fact that people are more physically active, or at least trying to be physically active, now more than they’ve been in the past. Even with this, the rate of obesity has not abated. The CDC reported that Americans getting more exercise has yet to report a decrease in the obesity rate.

It must also be noted that even if a person genuinely desires to be healthy, the lack of regulations on the food industry allows for blatant deception.

Unhealthy food products are routinely marketed as not bad for you and also something that will help you get fit in an unhealthy way. For example, Frosted Flakes are constantly marketed as healthy even though they’re even more unhealthy than many other sugary imbued cereal.

Most Americans have been innoculated towards eating unhealthy food through deliberate attempts from corporations to tie such habits with enjoyment, and deliberately designing their food to be addictive.

When faced with these facts, people must recognize this problem is not something individuals should be expected to deal with alone. Society has to help them beyond simply telling them to be more healthy.

Setting up adequate regulations on the food industry is critical to combat the obesity epidemic. Regulations like the ones we’ve placed on the tobacco industry such higher taxes placed on tobacco products, barring certain foods from being advertised to the public on certain platforms and a disclaimer being mandated being placed on the product on the possible health drawbacks of a food products would inevitably lead to massive victories in the fight to curb the obesity epidemic.

Just placing a tax on soft drinks has lead to substantial success. “Consumption of sugary drinks in Berkeley’s diverse and low-income neighborhoods dropped precipitously in 2015, just months after the city levied the nation’s first soda tax on sugar-sweetened beverages,” said the University of Berkeley.

If applied to other food products with the same rigor it is reasonable to expect similar results. It’s time for society to recognize the obesity epidemic as a threat to society, not just a few who are affected, otherwise the entirety of America suffer.