Obesity plagues the United States as “one of the top underlying preventable causes of death,” according to the Chicago Department of Public Health, as it increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. As of 2009, 67% of Chicagoan adults were considered obese. Combating the prevalence of this disease in Chicago is one of the department’s top priorities for the coming years.
If this disease is so preventable, then why is it still so prevalent? What efforts should be made to reduce these alarming obesity rates? The power lies in access and education through policy and community engagement. Access to unhealthy food, primarily in schools, should be limited and equal access to healthy food, primarily fresh produce, should be provided. This is especially important for low-income neighborhoods, which contain food deserts and leave citizens with very little healthy food options. In addition, citywide health campaigns should increase the promotion of healthy eating and physical activity, while educating the public on the dangers of obesity. Health campaigns could also operate on a smaller scale in local communities and schools to further encourage a healthy lifestyle. These methods call on the government and educators to take further action to combat obesity and will greatly impact the public, especially children and young adults.
Obesity not only threatens the lifespan of individuals, including children, but it also negatively impacts social and economic sustainability. By implementing education programs and providing access to healthy, sustainable food, adults and children will be able to make better diet and lifestyle decisions and potentially lower their risk for obesity and its accompanying complications. As a result, the estimated $147 billion dollars obesity-related medical costs covered by Medicare could be spent more efficiently.