Television brings us graphical representations of the growing problem of obesity these days and we are certainly sympathetic towards both those people who suffer from this condition and those people who are paying the mounting public health care bill.
Areas in the south/central portions of the United States show obesity rates more than 5% above the average for the country, while states in the west and northwest show statistical averages as much as 10% below the national average. One significant factor in fueling the high rates seen in the south is undoubtedly the traditional ‘southern fried’ diet. Ethnic bias shows stronger for a higher incidence of obesity in these regions also.
Hispanics and African Americans are as much as twice as likely to be overweight than their white neighbors in the same region of the country. There also appears to be a link between ethnicity and economic status in regions of the country where obesity is at its highest. Also these ethnic populations tend to have a lower base level of education than those areas where obesity rates are lower.
Lowered activity levels due to more sedentary lifestyles and fewer opportunities for exercise, childhood obesity has become a grave public concern. Children is lower socioeconomic classes tend to have higher rates of being overweight. A significant factor here is undoubtedly the low cost, high fat, high sugar processed foods that form a major part of the diet of many low-income families. This rise in obesity is also thought to be the reason for a recent rise in the incidence of diabetes.
While there can be no doubt that obesity is a public health issue, trying to regulate the eating habits of the nation raises a host of problems in terms of interfering with personal freedom. While public schools and guidelines for feeding children are becoming more sensible, educating families on the dangers of processed foods is the only thing that can truly make a difference. Food is a choice and children must be taught to make good choices on their own.
Governmental regulation of food choices is a hot topic. Key to any discussion of course is the right which parents must retain to raise their children as they see fit and without undue interference. In the past trying to regulate behavior has never proved successful. It will never work. There is really only one answer to the problem of obesity today and that is to educate children, parents and the wider community to follow a better diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle.
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