Opinion

How can Americans Afford to be Healthy?

How Obesity and Overall Health are affected by Socio Economics

By: Sammy Quarrato

Poorer states tend to have higher obesity rates for adults. Credit: nyt.com

The Obesity rate in the United States has been increasing since the 1970’s but has especially skyrocketed since 1999 where our obesity rate went from 30.5% to 42.4% in the year 2018.

The severe Obesity rate also went from 4.7% in 1999 to 9.2% in 2018, meaning almost 1 in 10 Americans suffer from severe Obesity. Just to show you how serious of an issue this is, New York Times reported that poor diet is the leading cause of mortality in the United States, period.

The question that everyone obviously has is how did America get itself into this position? The answer is more complicated than people realize.

Yes, personal responsibility does somewhat play into this issue and there has been a culture of acceptance of being overweight/obese that has been growing over the past few years; but to simply state that it’s the only issue, ignores the causes and systemic problems that lead people to making poor decisions for their diet in the first place.

Socioeconomic factors such as income/education or lack thereof alongside occupation are often linked with quality of life and the choices that people make alongside the available options.

The two states tied for the highest obesity rates are West Virginia and Mississippi at a whopping 39.5% while these states also rank extremely low in other categories.According to USA Today, West Virginia and Mississippi are the two worst states to live in the United States, while also having the lowest median wages in the United States (alongside with Arkansas) which was about $30-$32k according to Stats America.

Not only that, but the Robert Wood Foundation and WalletHub state that they also have some of the lowest life expectancies, the lowest rates of happiness in the US, and are considered the two least educated states in the country.

This trend is clear within the United States itself: the better the socioeconomic standards of the states, the better off they are as a whole, with rates of obesity in mind. Eating healthy is also more expensive, it costs more to buy fresh strawberries then it is to buy processed strawberry jam.

The US Government also subsidizes corn, soy, and wheat which are often attributed to unhealthy foods which gives them an advantage with lower prices compared to produce items such as fruits/vegetables.Walmart is also the largest grocer in the US and where many Americans buy their products, yet compared to a chain such as Whole Foods, it’s nowhere near as healthy, yet it’s much more affordable.

However, there are other factors to consider such as commuting time. Americans are commuting to their jobs which on average have been getting farther and farther from home. Commuting not only contributes to obesity, but anxiety, depression and higher blood pressure. 

The way you commute also affects obesity rates, people who utilize public transportation are less likely to be obsese than those who drive according to the University of Glasgow. 

According to the CIA, out of all the developed countries in the world, we are by the far the most obese and overweight in the Western world. It’s an absolute disaster.

Out of all the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries which are mostly made up of developed countries, we have the second highest poverty rate out of 37 nations. Being in lockdown for weeks on end hasn’t helped the situation either, according to Glenn Greenwald (Founder of The Intercept) and about 10% of the US population has seriously considered suicide since the pandemic began.

Extreme Obesity is linked with higher rates of suicide and due to the lockdown, it has been speculated by Scientists from Denmark that after the Pandemic, the US will especially deal with the issue of obesity, as if it wasn’t already a serious enough issue.

And just to show how bonkers this entire situation is, we spend double per capita on Healthcare compared to other developed countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Denmark, etc.

This is due to the fact that our health insurance companies price gouge the ever living penny out of us despite the fact that almost a third of the country is underinsured or has no insurance at all, and according to Harvard we have 45,000 people who die every year because they don’t have access to basic healthcare, something that doesn’t exist in other developed countries.

We are the only country that doesn’t have Universal Healthcare! Every other country that is considered part of the Western world has a Universal Healthcare system.

The Commonwealth Fund shows that America is rated number 11 out of 11 in a study they recently did on each country’s healthcare system.

We also pay by far the highest prices for prescription drugs in the world, and an example of this is in the form of a pill called Daraprim which was used in 2015 by people who have diabetes and cancer, both linked with obesity according to the CDC.

The price of this pill went from $13.50 to $750 and has only recently been cleared by the FDA to be a generic drug which allows other companies to make it.

But just think about how many people died because of some cruel corporatist called Martin Shrekli who wanted to make a buck out of diabetics and cancer patients.

This situation is going to get worse unless the United States does something about it. About 68% of Americans support Universal Healthcare and the facts have come in: the debate is over.

The best way to deal with healthcare is to make it a public utility that serves everyone just like how the Police Department, Fire Department, Military and Public Schools do.

This is a public issue and it’s time for the United States to catch up to the rest of the developed world in this matter of the quality of life for our citizens.

 

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