Is This Our Last Fat Chance?

The most insidious threat to the entire U.S health system is as plain as the nose on America’s face. Obesity. We are getting fatter and fatter and along with that fat comes heart disease and diabetes and a whole slew of “baddies” too numerous to mention.

Skyrocketing medical costs to treat the results of the overeating epidemic endanger Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, so obesity statistics of this sort are most unwelcome. But, these statistics do sound an alarm which calls for immediate action.

One of the main reasons why obesity is getting a lot of attention now, according to a recent report by Reuters, is the recent finding that medical spending on obesity is actually double previous estimates and obesity costs exceed the medical costs of smoking.

The outlook for obesity is not promising. Overeating has become an important profit center for fast food chains, beverage producers and large farming corporations. In this “profits today and forget tomorrow” world we live in, little will be done voluntarily to cut off this devastating “caloric” avalanche. Will America’s health and insurance systems drown in a sea of fat?

When the nation decided to send a man to walk on the moon, we did it in 10 years. We have improved our medical knowledge to the point that people are living years more today than they did in 1960. Even “killer” smoking has been curtailed. These advances came because of a concerted effort by researchers, medical practitioners and government to conquer these medical scourges.

Why is obesity not being tackled with the same fervor? We know that habits are easy to form but hard to break. We know that food commerce puts constant pressure on people to eat the wrong foods that lead to obesity. Where is the leadership on this modern disease which stands a good chance of wrecking our health system?

It is easy to make jokes about “fat people”. It seems easy enough for some of us to cut down on food to make a dent in the waistline. Obviously this is not the case with many, many people as obesity becomes more of a problem each year. Most people do not want to be obese. If they could choose to be otherwise, they would.

If we are going to tackle this problem before we get crushed under its medical and financial weight, the time to do it is NOW! Medicine, the drug industry, the food industry (yes, you McDonalds) have to stop doing business as usual and opt for business that promises to curb low nutrition, high calorie food consumption, rather than sneak more and more calories into what we eat.

It will be an uphill fight. In a free country, it is hard to put limits on what a person eats. It is also hard to pay for the medical disaster that person eats his or her way into. Maybe the answer is a national motto which will magically turn a person off when faced with a “double” anything meal.

We are eating ourselves into the grave, but only after we squeeze the juice out of the health system. Allied medical industries have cured smallpox, polio, and diphtheria; have made and installed new knees, hips and are working on spinal parts, all through strenuous and united efforts.

This is the kind of effort obesity requires now before America sits down to dinner and can’t get up again.

(Your thoughts on how to attack this problem would be welcome. It is a tough nut.)