According to the World Health Organization, over 200 million adults were considered obese as early as 1995. Just a short five years later, that number rose by 100 million people. For all intents and purposes, this puts obesity over any criteria for the term epidemic that is commonly used by science. Although it is not considered a disease and is certainly not contagious, obesity does have far-reaching effects on overall health and the cost of medical care around the world.
The Obesity Epidemic Explained
Many people consider obesity to be primarily a problem of people eating too much and being lazy. While this does contribute to the numbers in our increasingly sedentary and convenience food loving society, the epidemic is not centralized on areas with higher incomes, more access to expensive food choices, or even industrialized countries. Over 110 million people out of the 300 million currently considered obese are found in developing countries that do not have extensive food production or distribution networks or the type of leisure activities many people imagine obese people to take advantage of.
Why is this so? It has been shown even in the United States that people with lower incomes are often obese. When healthy food choices are not available or are too expensive to purchase and eat regularly, less desirable choices are made. For example, if a bag of carrots costs five dollars and a take-out meal costs four dollars, the choice for a hungry person seems obvious.
In undeveloped countries, this difference is even worse. Obesity is often tied into malnutrition because people do not have access to healthy food. Because their bodies are not getting sufficient nutrients to stay healthy and maintain energy levels, they eat more nutrient-deficient food even if the caloric content is high.
The Dangers of the Obesity Epidemic
As an individual's body mass index (BMI) goes up, so does their chance of contracting diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases and disorders. While this is unpleasant news for a single person, if the entire world experiences the same increased risks, the cost to healthcare organizations skyrockets. Doctors, hospitals, and health groups and associations need to change their approach to caring for insured, underinsured, and uninsured people that are at a high risk for contracting these problems.
What is Being Done About the Obesity Epidemic?
For the most part, the World Health Organization and many other organizations around the world are focusing on education to counteract the obesity epidemic. They are also trying to get governments on board to make changes to food distribution, farming practices, and things like school lunches. This approach focuses on obesity as a matter of socioeconomic factors and environmental limitations.
Unfortunately, no great strides have been made in the war against obesity in the past few decades. Combating the problems with access to healthy foods in the modern prevalence of electronics and other forms of entertainment that do not focus on physical activity is a steep hill to climb for these health groups.