The Obesity Epidemic, An Ounce Of Prevention Essay

The Obesity Epidemic, An Ounce Of Prevention Essay

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Pardon the cliché, but it happens to be particularly apt in this case: In trying to tame the nation’s obesity epidemic, an ounce of prevention is decidedly worth a pound of cure — considerably more than a pound, in fact, according to the findings of a five-year collaborative research project.

Not only can several popular strategies help children achieve and maintain a normal weight and, in the future, reduce adult obesity, they can also save the country many health care dollars and, in a few cases, generate revenue to support further weight control efforts.

The time is long overdue for legislators, schools, policy wonks and parents to deal more effectively with what is clearly one of the nation’s most costly health care problems.

In the meantime, parents and other adults who influence young lives can adopt the techniques found most likely to keep children lean and healthy and extend those benefits well into their adult years. For families as well as institutions, the dollar and health savings can be significant.

The project, initial results of which were published recently by The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, is called the Childhood Obesity Cost-Effectiveness Study, or Choices. It examined in exhaustive detail the costs and benefits of four possible approaches to curbing childhood obesity: placing an excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages; ending the tax write-off for advertising on children’s television; increasing moderate to vigorous physical activity in schools; and fostering healthier habits (more physical activity, better nutrition and less screen time) in preschool settings.

As you might expect, these approaches vary both in their implementation costs and effects on children’s weight, but before this analys...

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... provide 150 minutes per week of physical education,” and less than half of those minutes are typically active.

Less expensive and perhaps more effective long-term would be changing rules nationwide for drinks, physical activity and screen time in child-care facilities for preschoolers, which could reach 3.69 million American children, Davene R. Wright of the University of Washington School of Medicine and the coauthors concluded. This would cost $57.80 per B.M.I. unit avoided the first year, but in 10 years would save $51.6 million in health care costs.

In an interview, Dr. Gortmaker also noted that “snacking is a big issue” in children’s excess weight. “Marketers made it normal to be eating at every moment. Toddlers in strollers are constantly munching, and parents show up at kids’ baseball and soccer games with tons of snacks, mostly junk foods and sweet drinks.”

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