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The Business of Obesity

August 23, 2010

When an article on obesity ends up in the Business section of the New York Times, you may think, now they’re paying attention.  Obesity has received a lot of press in the past year.  However, television shows like Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a high profile initiative by the First Lady, food taxes, and special reports by all the major news outlets, still cannot quell the rising number of overweight Americans.

“Eat less, move more”, “Say no to junk food”, “Calories In/Calories Out”.  These are the mantras of those trying to lose unwanted pounds.   Much of this is easy to understand from the health advocate’s standpoint; but, as this analysis from the New York Times suggests, it’s more than the high calorie food and lack of exercise that’s keeping Americans fat:  it’s the environment of our society. 

“Unfortunately, behavior changes won’t work on their own without seismic societal shifts…because eating too much and exercising too little are merely symptoms of a much larger malady. The real problem is a landscape littered with inexpensive fast-food meals; saturation advertising for fatty, sugary products; inner cities that lack supermarkets; and unhealthy, high-stress workplaces.”

Fast food is cheaper than healthy food.  So, cutting government food subsidies that promote an obesogenic environment is one suggested way to lower those climbing rates of overweight Americans.  Yet another popular method to combat the problem is getting the private sector involved in workplace wellness programs; having healthy employees is advantageous for the employer.  The British are placing restrictions on advertising unhealthy foods during children’s programming and making cooking classes mandatory by 2011 for all school children ages 11-14. 

All great suggestions.   Our work and mission are being acknowledged.  Now it’s time to call for action.  Please submit your comments and suggestions.