Obesity in the United States

The phenomenal incidence of obesity is characteristic of industrial nations like the United States and therefore is a perfect example of a syndrome that is tied to the culture in which it is found. In an article published in JAMA, Must et al. attempt to account for the association with obesity incidence and the occurrence of various comorbid conditions such as type 2 diabetes, gallbladder, and coronary heart disease. The article discusses in some length the classification systems used to determine individual obesity, and the diseases prevalence in the United States based on this classification. Chiefly, body mass index (BMI) is the measure for determining an individual’s obesity status. Biological measurements could also be made of obesity via percent body fat assessment or even in taking into account an individual’s various comorbidities as the JAMA study does; however, there is an undeniable sense of you-know-it-when-you-see-it in differentiating those of average weight versus those who are over. This reflects the cultural aspects of obesity and how it is truly a CBS of the American culture. This latter description of obesity may explain some of the stigma behind being overweight. The individual aspect to this CBS encompasses all of these things. The obese individual is both representative of the various biological determinates for the condition, as well as subject to its inherent cultural stigmatizing effects. The way the United States treats obesity is also reflective of the condition’s status as a CBS. There are direct targeting methods for overcoming obesity on the individual level such as diet, diet pills (pharmaceuticals), exercise or invasive weight loss surgery. Additionally, there are widespread social movements to avoiding obesity and to promote healthy behavior. It is this latter public health type of intervention that indicates that obesity is just as much a disease in itself as it is a CBS.

Must, Aviva et al. . “The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity.” JAMA Network. http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=192030 (accessed July 18, 2014).

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