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Three Techniques for Being Proactive in Solving the Obesity Epidemic | Apr 11, 2016

The obesity epidemic is one of the major health crises affecting the U.S. today. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, approximately 1 in 3 people in the U.S. are obese, and 2 out of 3 are overweight or obese. Obesity can lead to a worse quality of life, a higher risk of mortality and a greater chance of developing other serious health conditions, such as heart disease and type II diabetes.

Sadly, there isn’t a single solution to this problem, which affects so many in the nation. A potential solution involves everyone’s help, from the nation’s leaders to public health officials to everyday citizens. However, if people aren’t willing to work together, this prevalent issue cannot be solved. Those in public health, including students, are at the forefront of this problem. As a public health major, how would you tackle this crisis? Consider these three proactive ways to get the job done.

1. Understand the financial effect

The worse the food is for people’s health, the cheaper it tends to be. People who are uneducated on the effects of this food and aren’t financially stable tend to be the ones investing in fast food, soda and other unhealthy products. One way to fight this crisis, aside from educating the public, is to implement a program that offers financial incentives for eating healthy. If people can’t afford healthy food, or they don’t have access to affordable, nutritional products, they might settle for the alternative, which is cheap, unhealthy food.

Sometimes this lack of nutrition begins at birth. Young mothers who aren’t educated about early childhood nutrition or who can’t afford proper health care might feed their children the wrong types of foods off the bat, leading to a lifetime of poor nutrition. Providing women who are in these disadvantaged communities with free prenatal and post-natal care will help get their children started off on the right foot. Making sure that these mothers can afford the vitamins and food needed to keep their babies healthy is critical in reducing childhood obesity and teaching parents about the right – and wrong – kinds of food.

2. Educate, educate, educate

Education is everything when it comes to the fight against obesity. People in certain communities may not have the same access to this education as others do. People in the public health field should construct educational programs in their communities and districts that teach everyone about the harms of unhealthy eating and a lack of exercise. A great program should encourage citizens to monitor their body mass indexes and weights, eat right by using systems such as MyPlate for daily food guidelines and exercise consistently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted.

There are several ways officials can do this. They can speak at local schools, town hall meetings and other community settings to inform people about the current health crisis and discuss simple strategies for making it better. Public health officials can also reach out to community leaders via email to set up round-table meetings and enforce policies. They can also educate people through social media, newsletters in local publications and even flyers in the mail. It may be wise for officials to try a few different methods to see what works best for their communities.

3. Push against the food industry

While a lack of financial support and education certainly isn’t helping the fight against obesity, neither is the food industry. Several major companies in this field are pushing to keep the country eating unhealthy foods. For instance, many companies own thousands of acres of land that grow corn, a food with little nutrition that is used to feed livestock, make frying oil, create soda and so on. If public health officials band together, they may be able to create regulation that finds an alternative, healthier food to be used in these products.

Advertising is the other issue regarding the food industry. Young children are constantly exposed to advertisements for fast food that encourage them to eat unhealthy products so they can have a fun lifestyle. However, that’s often far from the truth. People in the public health sector can band together to fight these advertisements and discourage them from airing on programs watched by children under the age of 10.