To the editor:
In Topeka, Dr. William Dietz, a past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that reducing overweight and obesity “will require a commitment similar to the civil rights movement and the anti-drunken driving efforts.” (Journal-World, Sept. 7)
This is indeed an epidemic. According to CDC, 2008 medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion. Costs paid by third-party payers for the obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.
According to the CDC, in 2010, 29.4 percent of adults in Kansas over the age of 20 were obese; in Douglas County this was 26.5 percent. The complications are extensive: type II diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and cancer.
In response, Gov. Brownback reflected the common belief that obesity is a problem to be dealt with through personal effort. This is only a part of the solution. Multiple issues lead to obesity, including physical and emotional predisposition, availability of dietary options and sociopolitical influences. Poverty makes for fewer choices. For many, personal controls are like those for type II diabetes or hypertension.
The food industry substitutes sugar for nutrition. The sugar-sweetened beverage industry increases the size of offerings. Twenty-five percent of the population consumes at least 200 calories of sugar-sweetened cola daily, well beyond the American Heart Association recommendation of no more than 450 calories weekly.
Schools, hospitals, LiveWell Lawrence, the Douglas County Food Policy Council and public groups have an opportunity to combat obesity and support healthy lifestyles. All are dependent on our strong support.