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Preventing Obesity is about Community Planning and Individual Activity

The California Endowmenthas published a report entitled, "Preventing Obesity in California". Here are a few excepts, but the report bears reading if you are fighting the "middle age bulge"...or have children at risk.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of children of all ages in the United States do not get enough physical activity, with fully one-third considered inactive. In California, one in three children is considered overweight, with four in 10 estimated to be unfit. In some California school districts, fully half of all children are overweight.

Obese children are at greater risk for a number of health problems, including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood lipids, asthma, sleep apnea, early maturation, orthopedic problems and depression. Before 1992, Type 2 diabetes (previously known as adultonset diabetes) accounted for 2 to 4 percent of all childhood diabetes cases. Today that proportion has reached 45 percent.

Today, addressing the obesity crisis requires both individual and community level interventions–supported by institutional practices and policies–that emphasize healthier eating and activity and in all settings, including homes, schools, neighborhoods, health care and the media.

Reversing the upsurge of overweight and physical activity among Californians will require the involvement of everyone. And the public seems to be willing to take on the challenge. A study commissioned by The California Endowment found that nearly all Californians (92 percent) believe the problem of childhood obesity is serious, and eight in 10 think the problem has worsened.

Interestingly, the majority of Californians opt for a community approach to resolve the crisis, such as improvements to school health environments and fast food restaurant and nutrition labeling...

Studies have linked the obesity epidemic to several environmental factors, including:

  • Excessive food portions, such as “super size”
  • Excessive consumption of high-calorie, high-fat, low-nutrient food, snacks and soft drinks
  • Lack of easily accessible places for physical activity, such as safe parks and bike paths
  • Insufficient physical activity opportunities for children in schools and after-school programs
  • Excessive time spent watching TV or playing video games
  • Limited access to supermarkets, farmers’ markets and other venues that carry affordable fresh produce in low-income neighborhoods
  • Widespread marketing of high-calorie, lownutrient cereals, snacks and drinks to children
  • Limited opportunities to be active at worksites
Since this blog is a member of the "marketing and advertising" culture, I must also mention the policy goals related to communications ... that are as much a matter of ethics as they are health.

Marketing and Advertising:

  • Eliminate marketing of unhealthy foods on school grounds and in after-school programs, including through textbooks, print materials and other advertising.
  • Reduce and, ultimately, eliminate television and Internet advertising for unhealthy foods aimed at children.
  • Increase the marketing and availability of healthy food choices and reduce portion size of restaurant meals, including fast food.
My husband and I frequently share a meal at a restaurant, now that middle age physique doesn't require the large portions that are served. But maybe those large portions aren't healthy for younger people, either! Rather than giving customers the evil eye when they share a meal -- maybe the staff should be looking at reducing the portions they serve and prices they charge. People like the variety of dining out as much as they like the food. They would eat out more often if their health and billfold warranted it.

Restaurants are in the "health business" -- furnishing nutrition for the well being of their customers. Where does responsible nutrition through portion sizes, ingredients and emotional ploys enter the business strategy equation?

Again...a matter of ethics as much as economics...