Obesity is a growing health concern in the United States. A projection earlier this year estimated that 75 percent of Americans will be overweight or obese by 2020, higher than any other country surveyed. That, in turn, is expected to grow health care costs considerably.
Now, experts are warning that those kinds of preventable health conditions could make the current generation the first to live shorter lives than their parents. At a conference in Atlanta yesterday, health professionals talked about health problems like obesity, why they are becoming more prevalent, and what needs to be done to encourage Americans to live healthier lives:
Tyler Norris, a senior adviser on Total Health at Kaiser Permanente, cited the life expectancy warning as he spoke to an Atlanta audience about the burden of obesity and diabetes. [...] Of course, it’s partly what Americans eat. Many people consume too many ‘’cheap, empty calories,’’ [Kaiser Permanente health advisor Tyler] Norris told the Connections conference, sponsored by Healthcare Georgia Foundation. Lack of exercise and the increase in sedentary jobs are other major factors contributing to obesity.
Norris presented several ideas to reduce to the problem, including providing more biking and walking routes; promoting breastfeeding; and serving better food in school cafeterias.
In one case, another expert noted, two communities in New Orleans had dramatically different life expectancies, with one at 55 and another at 80. According to Brian Smedley, director of the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, much of the difference can be attributed to things like “food deserts,” or areas with many fast-food restaurants and few nutritious options, and a lack of parks or recreational facilities.
Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have publicly rejected the idea that prevention programs, which have already started to help communities get healthier using those same actions, are worth funding, despite the fact that many of their constituents have a lot to gain from them.