Following trends and fads is nothing new for Americans; “keeping up with the Joneses” is practically the motto this country was founded on. While most trends cause us some sort of indirect harm (such as plastic surgery or tanning till we resemble an orange), others improve our lives. A prime example is the growing vegetarian diet fad, which stems from health education. But this fad can also be a long-term solution. Health education and increased government subsidies for organic food represent the most viable solutions to America’s obesity problem.
While not as prominent a problem as unemployment, obesity is one of America’s biggest (and most costly) issues. In 2009, the CDC reported that 33 states had obesity rates equal to or greater than 25%, 9 of which were equal to or greater than 30%. According to a USA Today article, obesity will cost the U.S. $344 billion in medical-related expenses by 2018 (about 21% of our healthcare spending). That’s 21% of taxpayer’s money that could go towards other, more important expenditures such as disease research. In light of these terrifyingly high rates, a shift towards healthier eating habits is an easy prescription to the problem.
Educating people about their health and the consequences of what they eat is the quickest way to start fighting obesity. The problem is not that there are no education programs in place; it is that the government is not promoting these programs effectively enough.
Organizations such as the Children’s Health Fund and the American Association for Health Education are already working towards a healthier America. These groups use strategies like the “medical home model,” which brings medical care and information directly into disenfranchised children's homes. They also continually research emerging health issues through partnerships with other organizations. Promoting these models and strategies will improve how health information and education spreads to Americans. It is up to the government to re-prioritize and push these groups to the forefront of the national agenda; following these groups’ models will make health information current and readily available. If people are more aware of the long-term consequences of eating junk food, including heart disease and cancer, they will be less likely to maintain their eating habits. People will see the pros of increasing vegetable and fruit intake, like lowering their chances of a stroke and generally increasing their lifespan. Educating children, especially, about the benefits of healthy living will tackle the root of the obesity problem.
In combination with education efforts, increasing government subsidies for organic foods will further tackle the obesity challenge. Most people use the archaic argument that organic food costs more, thus they cannot “afford” to be healthy. And yet, obesity counts for an astounding amount of America’s healthcare budget, which all Americans have to pay. Can they really afford to be obese over being healthy? National obesity costs can be prevented; especially in the ongoing recession, becoming healthier is an easy way to remedy our government’s budget problems. Through subsidies, organic food (produce, fruits, etc.) will be cheaper. This will encourage more people to switch to a vegetarian-friendly diet, incorporating more fruits and vegetables in meals. Moreover, there will be increased incentive for farmers to go organic. With more affordable and available health food, the change to a better lifestyle will be made even easier.
Knowing these facts, better health and eating habits through vegetarianism is one trend I hope does not go out of style.