Obesity in the United States
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html):
Adult Obesity Facts
Obesity is common, serious and costly
More than one-third of U.S. adults (35.7%) are obese.
Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
Obesity affects some groups more than others
Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (49.5%) compared with Mexican Americans (40.4%), all Hispanics (39.1%) and non-Hispanic whites (34.3%) [See JAMA. 2012;307(5):491-497. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.39].
Obesity and socioeconomic status
Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with low income.
Higher income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.
There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend—those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women.
There are many who look at the growing (no pun intended) trend in obesity in the US and conclude that personal responsibility is the answer, since, in their view, people can and should be personally responsible for their own weight. Why should the non-obese pay extra for the health care costs of the obese? The causes of obesity are lack of exercise and poor diet, both of which are related to income status. To put it bluntly, people who are poor are less likely to have the time to exercise or access to exercise facilities. And they are not likely to be able to afford better food. Many people who are obese are so because of inherited factors. What all people need is good preventive health care, including nutrition and exercise counseling. But the now constant call for more 'personal' responsibility in health care financing from both parties is making preventive care less affordable for all, but particularly for the poor. Health care, preventive or not, is infrastructure for American families, like education and highways. We need to assure that everyone has the care they need in order to optimize the opportunities for every American.
Dr. Joe Jarvis