Obesity has been a topic of increased concern in terms of American politics. Whether it be diabetes rates or increases in other heart related diseases, it is clear that more of the American population is clinically overweight. This GIF, courtesy of the Center for Disease Control, displays the rapid progression of obesity rates nationwide through the decades. Based on these alarming figures, policymakers should take a more proactive approach to addressing this often neglected but prevalent issue.
The interactive map above shows a progression between 1985 and 2010. The images begin to display cool colors which represent states having upwards of 20% of their population overweight. There is an overall trend for warmer colors to disperse all across the map, which indicate obese populations ranging from 20% to over 30%. An interesting trend to note is how there is a distinct presence of prominent and high obesity rates in the Southern states. With that in mind, the South is a target area for unhealthy Americans. The CDC defines clinical obesity as an adult having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater. The BMI is calculated by using a person’s weight and dividing it by the square of their height.
Why is obesity so common? A major factor can be attributed to government subsidies. The federal government heavily subsidizes the meat and grain industries, while ignoring produce. In short, the fast food industry triumphs over the good stuff leaving low-income families with the choice to live an unhealthy lifestyle. While its easy to offer the simple solution of better diet and exercise, millions of Americans simply lack the funds to support better eating habits.
However steps have been made to combat this growing issue. First Lady Michelle Obama launched her 2010 Let's Move Campaign. Mrs. Obama teamed up with local officials to provide better lunches to be served in schools as well as improve access to healthier foods for communities. The target of the initiative has been aimed specifically at children, as Mrs. Obama has made it her mission to promote more daily activities for kids.
Effective policy changes must be made at both the state and federal levels. However, making obesity a top priority in Washington right now does not look promising. With the current state of the economy and other topics such as job creation and gun control dominating the political climate, health initiatives addressing obesity may be put on the backburner for now.