Thursday, July 2, 2009

Obesity: Americans become active before the Government Mandates it.

I walked out this morning to get my paper, Star Tribune, and read the headlines as I wondered back into the house. The headline that caught my eye was “More fit than fat: State’s kids No.1”. A report was released by Trust for America’s Health on Wednesday. Minnesota did score well in comparison to other states; adults are 31st while youth (10-17) is No. 1. The report suggests that in order to combat obesity is to provide “less junk food at schools, more home cooking and less eating out, more gym time for students, limits on children’s computer and television time, and more workplace wellness programs.”


As the President Obama pushes his “single payer” public option for health care, we will see more accountability stripped away from the general public and put on the government. A hint to this is a quote by former Medicare Administrator Mark McClellan made when talking about Medicare and the report findings that people in the 55-64 age range are “much heavier than today’s seniors”. McClellan said (New report warns obesity in America is still growing problem, http://www.ky3.com/news/local/49632427.html), “Add to that the fact that the latest evidence suggests that people with obesity have healthcare costs that are 20- to 30- percent higher than people who aren’t obese and you’ve got the markings for an even more severe financial challenge.”


I am disturbed by the list suggested to fight obesity. The first point is to provide less junk food in schools, while this makes sense but is that really where the fight of obesity should start? Right now the Senate is considering a federal tax on soda and other sugary drinks as a potential revenue stream to offset the cost of President Obama’s “single payer” public option for health insurance. The trouble with this approach is it will not dissuade people from drinking these drinks; rather it will just increase the cost of their consumption as companies, like Coke, will pass along the tax onto the consumer. As Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association appropriately points out, “Taxes are not going to teach our children how to have a healthy lifestyle” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124208505896608647.html).


If we are to get the youth off the obese track, adult Americans need to be accountable and role models. Granted schools can assist by implementing the some of the suggestions as less junk food and more gym time the success of any obese combating program falls on the shoulders of those taking care of the youth. During last summer Olympics a lot was made of the number of calories Michael Phelps consumed on a daily basis; 8000 to 10000 calories a day. A lesson can be learned here that it does not matter how many calories are consumed; rather is how active one is during the day.


To consume more calories in the day that one will burn will lead to weight gain. Some argue that part of one’s body chemistry is genetic. Although that may be so, we all have the ability to influence it. Adult Americans themselves need to get off the couch, away from the blackberry, and get outside. Little things can be done. A walk after dinner, throwing the ball around with a child, participating in a recreational sport, or go for bike rides at the local park are all good ways to work off calories consumed. Incorporating these activities into family life will assist in raising kids that are more active and less likely to sit in front of the television or computer.


Taxing “unhealthy” food will not make our society to change their actions. It will only make it more expensive for those that do eat and drink the “unhealthy” foods. It is a personal choice on what you want to eat and if you want to exercise. Just as it’s one’s choice to be obese. The trouble is that as Government establishes a “single payer” public option that choice will be stripped away. As it was stated above by Mr. McClellan that obesity will increase health care costs, those that want a public option will not want to pay for your choice of consumption or lifestyle. So get out there and set the example before the Government mandates it.