Our Sunday graphics
2010 legislation that will be implemented during this school year has pretty much eliminated school bake sales. Below, on the left side, you can see the types of snacks kids can’t sell. Everything on the right is okay.
Where are we going? To obesity in the US.
Slimmer and Fatter States
Among the slimmest states in the nation, Colorado ranks first with 21.3% of its population defined as obese. At the other end of the list, Mississippi and West Virginia are the only 2 red states (below).
The math behind the map involves calculating your BMI (body mass index). A 5’9″ man weighing 203 pounds and a 5’4″ woman who weighed 175 would both have BMIs of 30. With a BMI of 30 the dividing line, anyone there or higher was considered obese. Curious? Here you can calculate your BMI.
Perhaps, though, thinking of how to target the programs that diminish obesity, it would be more productive to look at race or ethnicity. Then, we have Black obesity rates at the top of the list, next, Latinos, and last, Caucasians.
Another possibility is an income lens. More than one-third of the adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese while for those whose income is above $50,000, the obesity rate drops to 15.4%.
As for age, baby boomers (born 1946-1964) have the highest obesity rate among different age groups.
Through our taxes and insurance dollars, we all pay for the obesity-related entitlement spending that individuals receive through Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Maybe sharing the expense gives us the right to mandate healthy body size? (Japan does it.)
In 2012, Intelligence Squared debated whether so vast a government intrusion would be appropriate. Very briefly summarized, the “yes” side said…
- “Obesity is an epidemic.”
- Obesity creates increased risk for cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
- Obesity adds substantially to our national health costs.
- It is government’s responsibility to fund the fight against obesity.
- It is government’s responsibility to diminish the availability of unhealthy foods.
- When we diminish the consumption of unhealthy foods with taxes and less advertising, long-term health care costs drop.
And the opposition replied…
- When it tries to regulate private behavior, government is overextending its power.
- A more effective incentive, privatized health care would force people to bear the cost of unhealthy behavior.
- There is no clear dividing line between healthy and unhealthy food.
- We might be demonstrating prejudice about body size. (And I would add prejudice toward groups that tend to be obese.)
- Science has not definitively proved the correlation between between obesity and higher mortality rates.
You can watch the entire debate below.
The Bottom Line
Deciding between health incentives and penalties to control obesity, we are also weighing the extent that we want government in our lives.