Analyse how rising obesity is causing a crisis in modern society, and evaluate current solutions to address this problem.
Increasing numbers of obese people in modern society have caused a series of social problems, resulting in greater awareness of the seriousness of the issue. This concern is mirrored globally. The World Health Organization’s 2013-2020 Global Plan of Action for the Prevention and Control of Non-hereditary Diseases contains specific objectives to curb rising obesity rates and type 2 diabetes (Swinburn et al., 2015). It can thus be seen that obesity is now a major global health challenge. This essay argues that obesity causes disease, increasing both the prevalence of various diseases as well as personal and social medical expenditure. As a consequence, obesity has financial implications for individuals, families, and government, increasing government health expenditure. It also leads to an increase in mortality and population decline. Furthermore, obese people are maltreated at work and find it difficult to access suitable employment, causing employment shortages. The combination of a declining population and unemployment causes a reduction in the availability of labour and creates a crisis for modern society. This essay will also evaluate the impact of some national anti-obesity policies and the US “Let’s Move” campaign.
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The first reason as to why obesity can lead to a societal crisis is that it can cause disease. Obesity-related diseases include “type 2 diabetes, cancer, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and an increased risk of disability” (Djalalinia et al., 2015). While in the early stages of obesity, there is no apparent symptoms and diseases, in the long term, it can cause fatal diseases. These are often difficult to treat, and the treatment cycle is long with relatively high costs. It has long resulted in serious economic loss for patients, families, and society, and increased the burden on financial resources for healthcare. Revels et al. (2017) assessed the relationship between obesity rates and obesity-related medical costs, showing that total US medical service expenditure due to obesity is estimated to be $117 billion, accounting for 6% to 12% of health care. These findings also showed that obese people’s medical expenses are 37.2% higher than those of people who maintain an average weight (ibid). This clearly shows obesity burdens the finances of citizens and the government, creating a financial crisis.
Furthermore, the prevalence of various diseases caused by obesity is increasing, leading to increased mortality. Afshin et al. (2017) demonstrated that the number of deaths worldwide had reached 4.0 million, of which more than two-thirds are related to cardiovascular disease caused by high BMI (body mass index). Therefore, the increased risk of death and population decline caused by obesity should be widely acknowledged. It is also harder for obese patients to find a job, with reduced employment in the labour market and the fact that obese people are barred from applying for certain jobs (Caliendo and Gehrsitz, 2016). Declining population and employment challenges for obese people causes a decline in available labour. It can thus be seen that the long-term effects of obesity will seriously impact on the government and individuals. Rapid and effective public health measures need to be taken by national governments to prevent and resolve the crisis caused by obesity and save social resources.
In recent years, health awareness has increased. More people are acknowledging the consequences of obesity. In response, national governments have adopted a series of measures and formulated anti-obesity policies. Restricting calories has long been considered an essential weight-loss measure, and so, in 2006, the sale of soda and fried foods was stopped at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth (Wojcicki, 2013). In 2008, the UK National Health Service stipulated that vending machines at Welsh hospitals did not sell soda (ibid). These bans reduce opportunities to buy high-calorie foods in public, thus limiting people’s calorie intake. However, this can only control the calorie intake of a small number of people, in the case mentioned above only impacting those who visited these hospitals. The reach of these campaigns is too small and has little influence on the calorie intake of people across the country, having a negligible impact on the rise of obesity. Daily calorie consumption in the USA is 3% – 10% less than it was at the beginning of this century, but the number of obese people has doubled (Hill, 2009). People’s calorie intake has decreased, but the rate of obesity is still rising twice as fast. This shows that limiting calorie intake does not necessarily reduce obesity and that casting excessive calorie intake as the main cause of obesity is not appropriate.
Improvements to living standards, including modern facilities such as cars, buses, elevators, and so on limit people’s physical exertion, and most people’s daily calorie consumption are also reduced. Environmental factors such as socioeconomic conditions and sedentary lifestyles are also responsible for obesity, in addition to the diet (Schwartz, 2017). Consequently, the main reason for the rise in obesity is not increased calorie intake but a reduction in calorie expenditure. Therefore, reducing calorie intake while increasing daily activity levels is the key to tackling obesity. Also, anti-obesity solutions should appeal to a broader range of people. For example, a relatively successful anti-obesity national policy is the “Let’s Move” campaign, introduced by former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010. The campaign is a comprehensive national public health initiative, in which everyone takes part to ensure that children regularly eat fruits and vegetables, and participate in sports in order to increase the body’s use of calories (Jette et al., 2016). Since its launch, the campaign has achieved remarkable results, despite objections such as healthy meals being unpopular with children (ibid). However, this campaign is still supported by citizens and has been implemented smoothly as it truly meets neoliberal national policy goals and strives to make every citizen a part of physical activity. Therefore, a policy to combat obesity should advocate for the whole population’s participation in a healthy diet and sport, and combine the two approaches of increasing calorie expenditure and reducing calorie input to reduce the number of obese patients and diminish the crisis it causes in society. Additionally, anti-obesity solutions should call for the active participation of all people and align with the national policy concept of neoliberalism. Only a campaign that truly encourages all people to participate can offer a genuine solution to the challenges that obesity poses to society.
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This essay shows that the increase in obesity leads to an increase in the prevalence of various diseases, increasing the medical expenses of families of obese patients and obese individuals, and increasing the financial expenditure of government on medical insurance and healthcare. Concurrently, the obesity rate will also lead to an increase in mortality and population decline. In terms of the human resources market, finding employment for obese people can be challenging, resulting in employment shortages in the job market. As there has been a decline in the population caused by obesity, coupled with challenges finding employment for obese people that cause labour shortages, there has been a decline in the levels of available labour and society now faces a significant crisis. This highlights the importance of governments and individuals taking appropriate measures to reduce the number of obese people. In addition, this essay has also evaluated the way in which the sale of sodas and fried foods were stopped in 2006 at Princess Margaret Hospital in Perth. Furthermore, in 2008, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service stipulated that the sale of sodas in vending in Welsh hospitals would be prohibited. In the above cases, the anti-obesity policies that were applied related to limiting calorie intake. However, the analysis found that in modern society, the main cause of obesity is not individuals consuming excessive calories but is due to the reduction of the number of exercise people do, resulting in a reduction in the body’s burning of fat. Given this, people should reduce the calorie intake of food, but also increase the body’s calorie consumption, by doing things such as eating healthily and increasing physical activity. This will then reduce the obesity rate. Meanwhile, a campaign that can appeal to all people can have an effective impact on obesity rates. This could mirror the “Let’s Move” campaign initiated by former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010, in which the population of the United States was called upon to participate in ensuring that children regularly consume fruits and vegetables, and regularly participated in sports. It is, therefore, necessary to combine the two methods of promoting healthy eating, increasing calorie expenditure, and reducing calorie input to reduce the number of obese people. Moreover, truly encouraging the participation of all people can effectively solve the problems that obesity poses to society and prevent the crisis in modern society.
- Afshin, A. ( 1 ) et al. (2017) ‘Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 years’, New England Journal of Medicine, 377(1), pp. 13–27. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1614362.
- Caliendo, M. and Gehrsitz, M. (2016) ‘Obesity and the labor market: A fresh look at the weight penalty’, Economics and Human Biology, 23, pp. 209–225. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2016.09.004.
- Djalalinia S, Qorbani M, Peykari N, Kelishadi R.(2015)‘ Health impacts of obesity’. Pak J Med Sci ,31(1),pp.239-242. doi: 10.12669/pjms.311.7033.
- Hill, J. O. ( 1,2 ) (2009) ‘Can a small-changes approach help address the obesity epidemic? a report of the joint task force of the american society for nutrition, institute of food technologists, and international food information council’, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 89(2), pp. 477–484. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.26566.
- Jette, S. ( 1 ), Andrews, D. L. ( 1 ) and Bhagat, K. ( 2 ) (2016) ‘Governing the child-citizen: “Let”s Move!’ as national biopedagogy’, Sport, Education and Society, 21(8), pp. 1109–1126. doi: 10.1080/13573322.2014.993961.
- Revels, S., Kumar, S. A. P. and Ben-Assuli, O. (2017) ‘Predicting obesity rate and obesity-related healthcare costs using data analytics’, Health Policy and Technology, 6(2), pp. 198–207. doi: 10.1016/j.hlpt.2017.02.002.
- Schwartz, M. W. et al. (2017) ‘Obesity Pathogenesis: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement’, ENDOCRINE REVIEWS, 38(4), pp. 267–296. doi: 10.1210/er.2017-00111.
- Swinburn, B. et al. (2015) ‘Strengthening of accountability systems to create healthy food environments and reduce global obesity’, The Lancet, 385(9986), pp. 2534–2545. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61747-5.
- Wojcicki, J. M. (2013) ‘Healthy hospital food initiatives in the United States: Time to ban sugar sweetened beverages to reduce childhood obesity’, Acta Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics. doi: 10.1111/apa.12216.
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