Girth of a nation

The mainstream media has been laden with stories about America’s losing fight against obesity. EachAmbulance
year, it seems more and more Americans fall behind in their personal battle of the bulge.

By now, everyone knows about the various side effects of our super-sized population (i.e. Heart disease, diabetes, etc.).

But, what had escaped my notice until recently, were the various cottage industries that have sprung up to ‘support’ our country’s weighty issue. 

One such example is a new generation of super-sized ambulance equipment. Fire, rescue and first aid departments around the country are investing in stretchers and gurneys that can accommodate patients who now routinely weigh up to 600 pounds and more.

A friend of mine, who is a volunteer fireman, can attest to the need for these extra-strength units. He told me he and his fellow volunteers are becoming increasingly worried about injuring themselves and their patients because of the latter’s obesity.

How sad is it that American ingenuity can provide a ready-made solution to transporting increasing numbers of morbidly obese citizens, but still be unable to solve obesity’s root causes?

America’s falling behind in every conceivable global competitiveness measure except, perhaps, in inventing new widgets to deal with our self-destructive wantonness. It’s enough to make a blogger say, ‘Hey, ‘weight’ a minute. Has anyone in a position of power noticed that our dollar has shrunk in inverse proportion to our expanding waistlines?

12 thoughts on “Girth of a nation

  1. Mr. Andrews, while you do bring up some interesting points, I must agree with Mr. Cody. To simply dismiss the current messaging as a futile endeavor is counterproductive to the long-term goals our society is currently trying to reach.
    I do agree with you Mr. Andrews, that messaging is an issue. If we have learned anything from societal history, we have learned that ignorance will take generations to break. Perhaps as communicators we should begin to think about additional, more youthful approaches to the same message. While the status quo would lead many to believe present communication strategy is ineffective, it is perhaps the target audience and mediums that are to blame.
    Why would we not assume that most teenagers don’t want to be anything like their parents, especially if it means being obese. If we have lost the later generations to lifestyle complacency then perhaps we should target a younger demographic. I have yet to find fun and ‘cool’ ways to address weight management in social mediums. Perhaps a social networking application that can be applied to Facebook is the way to approach the issue. A type of avatar that reflects a day’s exercise, growing or shrinking based on the participants input.
    Social issues always make for interesting debates. While complex and likely unsolvable between us, it is an interesting topic to keep on the table.

  2. Good point re: education saturation, Steve. But, I’d disagree re: the need to educate America’s youth. There’s a whole new generation that needs to know the facts.

  3. It’s About the Messaging
    I certainly understand the societal arguments against obesity and its costs.
    It’s a sticky traditional quandary though to determine at what level society has the right, perhaps even duty, to step in to an individual’s life and enforce personal changes. Though I realize Repman is not suggesting legislation.
    Education programs aside, surely we’re approaching the smoking level of educational saturation, the number of people who do not know smoking and obesity are unhealthy states in which to exist surely must be a very small percentage at this point.
    We are dealing with lifestyle choice, which is not to say something that can be easily changed. Think of any given deeply rooted lifestyle choice any of us make, and now imagine someone glibly dismissing it as easily changeable. Lifestyle changes are not easy to make, they are not simple choices but instead reflect myriad of interconnected behaviors some learned and some inherited.
    So some of the will-to-change must come from those proposing the cure, since education or the current education programs are not allowing American’s to tighten their belts perhaps we need to acknowledge this reality and adjust our messaging to reach these folks who cost us so much.

  4. Thanks Austin. Those are powerful statistics indeed. Health considerations notwithstanding, our country’s obesity epidemic is one additional reason why our image and reputation is at an all-time low around the world.

  5. Ted: As a graduate student at the University of Alabama, I have seen the societal consequences of obesity on a hyper-local level. A recent study released by Stanford University relates some of the financial problems related to obesity rates. I have attached a portion below:
    According to the literature, the obese contract chronic diseases at a higher rate than the non-obese, and consequently pay more for medical care. The lifetime medical costs related to diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, and stroke among the obese are $10,000 higher than among the non-obese. Among the overweight, lifetime medical costs can be reduced by $2,200 to $5,300 following a 10-percent reduction in body weight. Obesity also has externalities associated with it—namely, mortality and health insurance costs. Because medical costs are higher for the obese and premiums do not depend on weight, lighter people in the same pool pay for the food/exercise decisions of the obese. Furthermore, the negative health effects of obesity decrease the ability of the obese to pay for govern-
    ment-mandated social programs.

  6. Jackie: It would seem that Ted’s all for treating the illness without attacking it at its roots. Ted: we must get Americans off the couch and onto the treadmill, or suffer untold health care costs as a result. Oversizing the morbidly obese’s infrastructure needs a la ambulance gurneys is not the answer.

  7. While there is a portion of the population who are unable to control their weight, the majority can. And just as we all pay for the teen-aged unwed mother on welfare, we all pay for those who are in ill-health due to their being overweight. Peppercom cheered my giving up cigarettes, not just because they care about me as a person, but also because I became a healthier employee. And that benefits us all.

  8. Ted, America’s obesity absolutely impacts every one of us. Health care costs are most certainly impacted by obesity. It’s not the obesity per se, but all the other health issues that it causes: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and the list goes on and on. Those conditions require medical treatment, which we all wind up paying for. Years ago companies like GE started employing Chief Medical Officers because they realized the only way they were going to be able control health care costs was to improve the health of their employees.
    I agree with you that some people do have medical conditions and issues that prevent them from losing weight. But for far too many, it’s a lifestyle issue that starts with too much TV and sugary, fatty foods as children and grows into a sedentary lifestyle as adults. I have little sympathy for people who can’t get off their sofas long enough to walk around the block or don’t choose a salad over a Big Mac once and while.

  9. Ted, America’s obesity is adding all sorts of additional burdens to an already badly burdened economy. You see no problem in America finding new technologies to transport morbidly-obese people instead of spending more time on educating Americans about the underlying issue? If that’s the case, I assume you’re also a fan of big pharma since they treat the illness instead of focusing on prevention education.

  10. I’m not sure why this is a problem for you or Jackie. How does it affect you? And don’t say rising health care costs because there really is not a direct correlation.
    Also, it is very easy to criticize people for being obese. I doubt many would choose to be obese if given the choice. For many, it’s an unfortunate way of life; a battle that they wage every day of their lives. Many people don’t have the means or know-how of what it takes to lose weight and keep it off.

  11. I didn’t know about Oprah’s set manipulation, but it doesn’t surprise me. I don’t understand why so many Americans continue to eat themselves into an early grave? Maybe I should have used a headline along the lines of: “Comfort food kills.”

  12. America is used to taking the easy route. It’s easier to make a bigger ambulance than to exercise and practice some self-restraint. Did you know that during Oprah’s heaviest years they redesigned her set and made her chair bigger to make her appear smaller in comparison? Sad.