How does one raise awareness of the many health risks associated with the rise in obesity in the US, at a time where the constant battle is fought between the perfect image and where we are to love ourselves no matter how we might look? The real challenge is how to battle one extreme, without encouraging the other. The key is to promote progress and health, not perfection! Hope lies in adequate education, government policies, and community engagement.
Educating Against Obesity
The most effective education is that which starts from an early age. Although it is not impossible, it is of course much harder to change your habits at a later age. That is why there should be a primary focus on the youngest residents of the US. As important as it might be to teach our youngsters maths and English, it should be equally important to teach them habits of healthy eating1https://blog.kaplanco.com/ii/teaching-preschoolers-about-nutrition and being active. Such ought to be a must within our school curriculums.
Children might not understand the seriousness of the health risks associated with obesity, but teaching them the right habits 2https://www.guthrie.org/blog/6-healthy-habits-teach-your-kids from the onset will reduce the likelihood of the problem arising. But, when dealing with children, you must keep in mind that they are fragile and must be approached carefully. This is to avoid negative consequences such as body shaming and reduced self-worth as obesity or being overweight is a very sensitive issue nowadays.
Healthcare providers usually deal with patients who are already experiencing issues with obesity. That is likely where the problem lies. The focus should really be on prevention. Let's encourage and help our healthcare workers to educate their patients before the problem eventuates. Teach them how to promote healthy habits to new moms, teenagers, and the elderly, amongst others. Make them all truly aware of the health risks so they can make informed choices.
Now, what can or should the government do to mitigate the ever-increasing obesity concern? Maybe look towards systems or preventative measures implemented in other countries throughout the world. Some of these include but are not limited to changes in government regulations, imposition of higher sugar and junk food taxes and more wisely chosen and regulated school lunches.
Sometimes to be able to make any significant changes within a society and its institutions, you must begin by amending and applying government regulations 3https://www.who.int/europe/teams/nutrition-physical-activity-and-obesity/policy-and-strategy. These regulations serve as a guide to those institutions which have the power to impact and change people's lives. They can offer solutions on how to most adequately address the problem. If it is legally mandated by law or regulation, people are more inclined to comply and follow.
It is difficult to refrain from old habits, but what if the habit became more expensive and thus financially burdening? What if unhealthy foods, those filled with sugar and similar substances that contribute greatly towards obesity, are taxed at a much higher rate? 4https://www.economicsobservatory.com/would-taxes-on-unhealthy-foods-reduce-obesityConsequently, it would be the consumers that would cop the higher cost which would hopefully reduce their consumption of such foods. Foods that cause obesity are not essential foods for healthy development and therefore do not have to be readily available for consumption.
Lastly, let's rethink the school lunches or the offered cafeteria foods. Some of it is quite unhealthy but still continues to be provided throughout many US schools. This is despite the rising numbers of obesity, especially in school children. Schools can’t educate students about eating healthier if they continue to serve them unhealthy foods 5https://foodrevolution.org/blog/school-lunch-in-america/. If the aim is to bring up a healthy and active generation, then we must make healthier choices.
The sense and the power of a community have always had a significant impact on our lives. Why not use this power towards the greater good and encourage people to pursue healthier lifestyles? Each community should focus on creating, promoting, engaging, and encouraging people to get involved in various fitness programs and outdoor activities.
Also, further education on healthy foods and healthy cooking options by offering programs such as community kitchens6https://www.mcmasteroptimalaging.org/full-article/es/community-kitchens-provide-benefits-social-nutritional-health-3148 would go a long way. The local and affordable availability of these programs is the key to encouragement.
Whilst many of the above recommendations are in some way already a part of our societal system, I believe that most of us still do not take obesity seriously. The greater emphasis ought to be placed on this alarming issue that has and continues to affect many US citizens, regardless of age. It is up to all of us to raise awareness, whether it be through government regulations, healthcare systems, schools, or local communities.
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