W6 Activity: Obesity in America

Obesity in the past century has become an increasingly large problem in the US as the severity and prevalence has arisen in many parts of the country’s population.  Obesity is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”.  The statistical outlines of this condition is derived from the Body Mass Index (BMI); a person’s weight divided by the square of a person’s height.  If a person has a BMI of 25 or higher, they are considered overweight; a 30 and higher is considered obese.  The origins of this disease come many differing factors from genetic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions and cancer, as well as ties to socioeconomic factors, with the highest prevalence in poverty areas.  A study by Dr. Philip T. James “The Worldwide Obesity Epidemic” analyzed the disease on a global scale and found many different observations concerning the disease.  For example, once a problem dealing mostly with higher-income countries, namely the United States, the problem has become more apparent in lower-income countries as well.  Women also seem to have higher prevalence rates for obesity than men do.  From a biological perspective, genetic differences can play a part in the prevalence of obesity in different nations.  Body chemistry such as height and metabolic rates can all have an impact on the likeliness of obesity comparatively.

In the United States, there have been a lot of different health initiatives combating the outbreak of obesity.  Michelle Obama, for example has been a front runner in tackling childhood obesity, with her push on legislation dealing with healthier school lunches.  This isn’t the only example as there has been much more legislation pushed through the government on taking on obesity through a dietary perspective such as pushing for fast food restaurants to include calorie information for the food items they make.  Along with that, exercise initiatives such as mandatory recess and health information classes are other ways in which school boards have helped to fight the disease.  In the next few decades, it will be interesting to see the outcome of these initiatives as abundance of media has helped spread the word on obesity, however also the convenience of food purchasing for more calorie dense foods may affect.


Philip T. James, The Worldwide Obesity Epidemic, National Institutes of Health (2001)


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