Thursday, November 8, 2007

War on Obesity - at the Workplace and School

A report in the journal Circulation found that around the world, except for East Asia, the majority of individuals are overweight or obese. The study looked at nearly 170,000 patients across 63 countries, but excluding the United States, to see if their body mass index was in the overweight or obesity range. The report was somewhat skewed as the researchers look that those individuals who were seeing their primary care doctor.

Researchers found that of men 24 percent of men were obese and 30 percent were overweight. For women the numbers were higher at 27 percent of women were obese and another 40 percent were overweight.

These results are not surprising as many countries are opting the Western lifestyle of fast food and inactivity. It is unfortunate that one of our country's major export is to make people fatter.

Perhaps stemming the tide of this international epidemic of obesity will rely on innovative programs that are occurring in the workplace and at schools in the United States. Increasingly employers are trying to slow their health care costs by encouraging employees to quit smoking or lose weight. A few have actually terminated individuals who were found smoking. More Americans feel that those who adopt unhealthy habits should pay more for health insurance than those who are healthy.

The other area of opportunity is changes in food options available to school children. A CDC report found that the number of schools that offered french fries as their only vegetable fell by half from 40% in 2001 to under 20% in 2006. Schools are removing sodas and other junk food from their vending machines and cafeterias. Physical education programs, once cut because of inadequate funding or time due to additional academic requirements, are being re-introduced to get students more active.

Providing environments that are supportive of healthy choices and lifestyles may help current and future generations avoid the overweight and obesity problems currently plaguing too many individuals.

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