Obesity rates and costs – Who can make the change?

Recent legislation shows the difference in opinion on how to combat obesity – Is it the government or the individual?

In New York and Mississippi recent governmental action legislating limits on the size of sweetened beverages clearly has shown strong differences in opinion. New York recently passed legislation limiting the size of sweetened beverages to fewer than 16 ounces. In contrast, Mississippi passed legislation preventing counties, districts and towns from enacting rules that limit portion sizes. Both of these two diverse responses clearly shows the strong feelings on the government role to control what we chose to eat or drink.

The underlying issue between these two different opinions is free choice. The governor in New York is so concerned about the rising obesity rates that he believes this is the correct way to fight the rising epidemic. In Mississippi, the governor feels it is the individual’s decision on what to eat and drink. Any way you slice it, both of these entities want individuals to be healthier, they just disagree on how to accomplish it. Despite your political leanings on this issue, the data shows a scary picture on the state of our health and the cost of our lifestyle choices.

The data shows that Americans are heavier than even before. In Michigan, 31.3 percent of adults are obese, according to a 2011 study analysis by the Center for Disease Control. Additional county specific data for all states are also available. Pairing with the rise in obesity is the economic cost. A new Cornell University study reports that obesity now accounts for almost 21 percent of U.S. health care costs. That equates to $190.2 billion per year. There is an opportunity to make a change for the better by decreasing the obesity rate rise as well as the costs associated this epidemic. According to a report from the Trust of American’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, if Michigan residents reduced their body mass index (BMI) by five percent, the state could save $24 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years.

What to do to change the trend? The Center for Disease Control provides resources and advice on how to take make changes in their own health. Taking personal action is one step to begin to affect rising obesity rates. Michigan State University Extension recommends taking action now to improve the health of the nation and yourself. For information or to find a nutritionist in your area contact your local MSU Extension office.

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