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One of the severest problems facing the modern USA is obesity. It has become a sort of contemporary plague with a devastating impact on health of the nation and the economic situation in the country. Moreover, this malady carries a global character being characteristic of the majority of developed countries in the world. However, the USA is a country where obesity is the most wide-spread and requires urgent and effective measures to be tackled. Thus, about 35,7%, i.e. more than one third, of U.S. adults are overweight with the number of obese children and adolescents constantly growing at an alarming rate (CDC). If nothing is done to prevent the spread of obesity and decrease the number of people suffering from it, about 42% of Americans may become obese by 2030 according to recent studies (Hellmich). There are offered various possible solutions that vary in the degree of their short-term and long-term efficacy, yet there is no ultimate cure that would eliminate this modern disease for good. This paper gives a brief overview of the problem of obesity in the USA, its main causes and effects as well as a review of some offered solutions while stating their potential effectiveness. There are a great number of national and local organizations that have proclaimed a war on obesity, and they also will be mentioned in the paper. Finally, the paper deals with a short description of one of the solutions to the problem. State intervention through the adoption of several legislations aimed at reducing the level of obesity seems to be the most appropriate and effective measure under the existing circumstances.

It is essential to understand that being obese is not the same as simply having excess weight. It is “a complex disease involving genes, behavior and environment”. The term “overweight” is defined by the National Institute of Health as the “body weight that is at least 10 percent over the recommended weight for a certain individual” (The Endocrine Society). Obesity is defined “as an excessive amount of body fat in relation to lean body mass”, which in numeric terms is more than 30 percent over the recommended weight for a certain individual or a  Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 (The Endocrine Society). Obesity is perilous not only of the excess weight or some problems with the individuals’ self-perception and self-esteem, but because it is tightly connected with the emergence of a number of serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, asthma, arthritis, stroke, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia.

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As soon as obesity has been acknowledged as a serious hazard to human health, researchers have started conducting studies aimed at disclosing the causes of its emergence. The primary reason of obesity is considered to be the combination of two factors: excess calorie consumption and insufficient physical activity. This combination may be expressed in the form of the following formula: “Current Weight= Previous Weight + Energy Inputs – Energy Outputs”. However, the researcher’s group from the University of Alabama in Birmingham has recently issued a report stating that obesity is evoked not only as an outcome of combining too much food with too little exercise. It is rather a complicated mixture of the above mentioned factors as triggers of the illness with genetics and environment. David B. Allison mentions the following causes of obesity besides the “big two”: insufficient amount of sleep, environmental pollution, decreased level of smoking, temperature control of buildings, some medicines, population age and ethnic belonging, higher level of birth among older women, ancestors’ environment, higher levels of fertility, and unions of obese people. The list of reasons is not an exhausting one, yet it signifies that the causes of obesity are far more complicated than simply eating too much while spending too little time physically active.

The effect of obesity on the community is enormous. Besides the previously mentioned health conditions invoked by the disease, the economic impact is also huge. The recent study has estimated that “the total annual economic costs associated with obesity” reach about $215 billion. It is the second preventable cause of death after smoking in the USA with about 400,000 deaths annually (The Endocrine Society). However, there is an opinion that this number may be exaggerated a little as obesity is not the primary cause of death among obese people. Besides, it is quite difficult to estimate the death rate correctly as obesity is hardly a direct reason of death, thus being often only an “attributable” cause. Moreover, obesity is responsible for such effects as unhealthy and passive lifestyle, low self-esteem, negative self-perception, depression and stress, discomfort in social situations, lack of socializing skills, diminished quality of life, and additional financial burdens.

The most wide-spread and popularized solution to the obesity problem is the propaganda of healthy eating habits and regular physical activities. Diet is stereotypically considered to be the fastest way of reducing weight. There are different types of diets with a varying degree of their effectiveness. The majority of diets deals simply with reducing the amount of consumed calories while some prescribe mixing various foods or eating more food rich in carbohydrates or protein. It is highly recommended to prescribe diet by a health practitioner, who takes into consideration the peculiar situation of every individual. However, “diets themselves rarely cure obesity, can be quite costly, and can sometimes be dangerous in and of themselves”. Many obese people lack willpower and costs to afford healthy diet, and simply reducing the amount of consumed food may be even more dangerous to health than excess weight. Furthermore, diet offers a temporary solution as the recent study has shown that people start gaining weight in two years after following diet, which leaves them “with a net loss of just 9 pounds” no matter what type of diet they have been following.

Physical activity is supposed to be a solution to the obesity problem. It is truly advantageous for people’s health as it helps manage weight and improve overall wellbeing. It can prevent further weight gaining, yet it is not exceptionally efficient if people do not go in for sports regularly. Some claim that they lack time and resources to be physically active on a regular basis. However, it has been estimated that 30 minutes of daily physical activity can significantly reduce the risk of becoming obese, having evident benefits for health. Physical activity is effective if people take it seriously and contribute it by healthy nutrition and healthy lifestyle. Although it is popularized in the USA through mass media and community centers, it has not been proved to be influential in terms of the national level of obesity.

Another solution to obesity is medication and surgical intervention. Bariatric surgery is recommended by the National Institute of Health for those, who have a BMI of 40 or more or “a BMI of at least 35 with comorbid conditions”. There are two kinds of surgical intervention: gastric banding and gastric bypass. Bypassing part of the intestine is considered to be more dangerous and strenuous in terms of after-surgical care. The 15-year study in Australia has proved that laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding may be a safe and efficient solution to obesity management. Doctors from the Monash University CORE have analyzed the cases of 3,227 patients and concluded “This surgery is safe and effective, and it has lasting benefits” (Monash University). However, the operation is costly and is not covered by social insurance. Besides, its effects have been studied for about only 15 years, hence leaving the possibility of longer-term complications.

Nowadays, there are a large quantity of associations and foundations that advocate for fighting against obesity. Some of the U.S. movements include the following: Campaign to End Obesity, Obesity Action Coalition, National Action against Obesity, Obesity Prevention Project of the California Medical Association Foundation, Obesity Society, Get America Fit Foundation, SLAM Fitness, and a number of anti-obesity projects organized by the Clinton Foundation and the American Medical Association. The majority of these organizations advocate for such solutions as healthy lifestyle, healthy eating habits, physical activity, education of the community about the issue, its causes, effects, and potential solutions, healthcare professionals’ assistance, physical education and healthy food in schools, advertisement of healthy choices rather than junk food, organization of local and national anti-obesity campaigns, teaching parents about childhood obesity, etc. However, obesity is treated as an individual problem rather than a systemic one in the majority of cases. Despite the acknowledgement of its epidemic character, obesity is often regarded to be a separate person’s problem that he/she should cope with on his/her own.

This paper supports the idea that obesity is a national problem that has to be solved with the help of state regulation and through the adoption of new laws regulating food and beverage industries as well as promoting a healthy lifestyle in the country. It may be not the most effective solution to the problem in terms of immediate observable results, but it has a potential of having a beneficial lasting effect in the long run. The community needs to see that the problem of obesity is recognized and tried to be solved at the governmental level, hence promoting the sense of responsibility and awareness among common citizens. People’s eating choices are affected by the availability of relatively cheap junk food and soft beverages that are advertised in all media. They are largely unaware about the calorie consistency of the foods they consume and seem to choose the products that are most advertised despite their harmfulness. Various snacks are sold at every turn, thus promoting unhealthy eating habits. The rapid speed of contemporary life often discourages people from going in for sports and promotes passive leisure activities like watching TV and surfing the net. The same is applicable to schools where children can buy junk food, snacks, and soft beverages, and where the amount of physical activity hours is evidently insufficient to decrease the rate of childhood obesity.

The Obesity Action Coalition realizes the importance of state intervention for a successful solution to the problem. The OAC has advocated for the adoption of the Harkin/Murkowski School Nutrition Amendment to the Farm Bill promoting healthy school nutrition standards and the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (OAC). The Amendment to the Farm Bill has failed while the FIT Kids Act is still on review. The Act has been proposed by the American Heart Association and presupposed the integration of regular physical education into the No Child Left Behind Act (OAC). These legislations are aimed at fighting childhood obesity, yet it is also essential to adopt laws intended to reduce the level of this disease in all age groups. Another significant step was the adoption of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1991 and the Guidance for Industry: A Food Labeling Guide in 1994 that was revised in 2009 (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). This way, people can monitor their calorie intake and make informed choices concerning their foods, yet these measures are insufficient for a successful solution to the obesity problem.

The solution that is offered in this paper is targeted at the above mentioned organizations and associations as their united efforts would be influential in terms of advocating for the governmental adoption of new legislations. These movements could unite their expertise and experience in the field with the federal departments in order to draft and later promote new laws that would benefit the entire community.

Food industry has the capacity to influence people’s choices concerning their nutrition. The government should encourage food companies to advertise and sell more healthy choices than junk food and cheap products rich in fat. Thus, the government can lower taxes for those companies that sell healthy food and healthy snacks. Moreover, packages should explicitly and comprehensively state the nutritional value of the product and its potential of contributing to obesity. Soft drinks are often blamed to be partially responsible for excess weight among the Americans. Therefore, their spread and availability must be somehow restricted, for instance, by reducing the amount of bend machines in public places. In addition to restrictive measures, the advertisement of bottled water and healthy foods should be promoted. People are immensely affected by commercials that are a powerful tool of making the public see and realize the danger of obesity and choose healthy nutrition instead. Schools are to be provided with healthy food and such snacks as fruit and vegetables. The government should adopt harsher rules concerning the advertisement aimed at children as this group of population is more easily influenced by it. The quantity of street vendors selling junk food and unhealthy snacks should be regulated by the governmental measures as they encourage people to engage in unhealthy eating habits.

Another possible measure to be taken in the food industry due to the governmental encouragement is the promotion of smaller portions of offered food. Snacks like chips or candies may be issued in smaller packages that would contain a lesser amount of calories. The same applies to fast food restaurants and ordinary cafes that have to provide their customers not only with the calorie table of all offered dishes, but can also promote the purchase of smaller portions through various advertisement campaigns and discounts. The amount and quality of food ingredients has to be strictly regulated. The percentage of fat and cholesterol should be reduced in order not to harm people’s health. Fast food restaurants must be encouraged to broaden their menu offers with healthy choices rather than junk food options. This way, people will get the opportunity to eat healthy food at their favorite cafes at available prices.

The availability of healthy products is another issue to be taken into account by the government. Nowadays, a lot of people cannot afford healthy nutrition as it is relatively expensive in comparison with unhealthy food that often comes at cheaper prices. The government should take measures in order to ensure that people with low income can buy healthy food and do not feel it like a financial burden. It is sometimes said that diet is an expensive occupation. The government has to make it an available option for those people, who want to get rid of the excess weight.

Thus, various anti-obesity movements and organizations should unite their efforts in drafting a new law that would make the American food industry feel responsible for a kind of nutrition style that it promotes. Prices, sizes, nutritious value, and quality of the offered products are the primary points to be included into the legislation. The government should work out a balanced system of rewards and punishments for food companies that either implement the vision of healthy eating or violate the basic principles of legislation. It could be done through a system of taxes and subsidies to be granted to the most efficient and innovative companies. Besides, the regulation of legislation enactment is an essential part of its success.

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