Obesity has become an epidemic. According to the CDC, the percentage of non-institutionalized Americans over 20 who were overweight was 67 percent in 2005-2006. With the staggering increase in obesity in this nation, some people are calling it a disease.
Attributing the word “disease” to this malady invokes the ideas “uncontrollable, not their fault, unpreventable,” or something else along those lines. A disease isn’t something you can just walk off or give time to heal. A disease is something that must be treated with more drastic means of treatment – medicine, surgery, etc. Is obesity really a disease? Is it something that can be controlled? No doubt that obesity can be prevented, yet some argue they are obese due to factors outside of their control.
If not labeled as a disease, people who suffer from obesity wouldn’t be able to get the necessary treatment they need to get their weight back to a healthy level. If it were labeled as what it really is – a malady preventable by making sensible diet choices and exercising regularly – doctors would tell patients to turn around, go home and lay off the junk food. Instead, people who eat themselves into a dangerous weight are given easy, but risky choices.
One of these choices is weight loss surgery, such as Lap-Band, liposuction or gastric bypass. All of these choices – especially gastric bypass – are fast routes to weight loss. However, they do carry risks, such as infections, blood clots and leakage within the stomach. Depending on the magnitude of your obesity, insurance could cover it. Therefore, people who bring this condition upon themselves have a relatively easy outlet. Another choice is diet pills. They aren’t as instant as surgery, but carry their share of side effects such as diarrhea, internal bleeding, nausea, etc.
The bad thing about obesity being considered a disease is that it makes it acceptable for a doctor to resort to such treatments. In turn, the health problems caused by the obesity still remain. People are given easy roads to recovery rather than advised to make sensible choices in diet and exercise. Drug companies make millions off of the obesity boom, as do insurance companies – and why not? It’s a disease! You have to take this stuff; you have to get this surgery.
Basically, calling obesity a disease is like your doctor telling you: “Don’t exercise, eat whatever you want. When you become obese 20 years later, I’ll give you these pills or this surgery and you’ll be fine!” It may seem a little sensationalized, but in essence that’s all you’re getting. In lieu of choosing a less sedentary lifestyle, people will continue to perpetuate the same unhealthy choices that put them in such an obese state to begin with. It’s up to you – keep lining the drug company’s pockets, or start making wiser choices. I know I will be seen as abrasive and rude by the obese community or sympathizers for writing this; I’m aware. However, I look at obesity as a leading cause of PREVENTABLE death; more specifically poor diet choices.
OK, where am I going with this? Well, since the government finds it acceptable to tax smokers on the premise that it’s detrimental to their health, why not tax obesity? It has been discussed; it only seems fair to me. If you eat fast food more than twice a week and you’re obese, you’re not exactly taking steps to make yourself healthy. You’re no better off than the smoker! Yet, the smoker is being taxed stiffly and swiftly.
I believe at the very least, health care costs for obese people should be higher. According to a study by RTI International, 9.1 percent of all health care costs are related to obesity. According to a study in Health Affairs magazine, the percentage of obese people being treated for high cholesterol, mental disorders and upper gastrointestinal disorders increased by 10 percent. The same study found that around 25% of the extremely obese (80 or more pounds overweight) were being treated for six or more conditions in 2002, compared with 14% in 1987. It may seem like outdated research to you, but you can’t ignore the facts. When you combine the state of the economy with the incessant advertising, you can’t tell me the problem has ameliorated at all either.
I understand the reasons for this epidemic as well. Excessive advertising lures people in with glitzy ads and gaudy representations of their products. People have busier schedules and therefore don’t have the time to cook a real meal. Soda has become less expensive over the years. Diet pill advertising has expanded in accordance with the junk food advertising that leads people down a path of inaction. Still, is a fat tax really so infeasible? Strides have been made to make healthier choices look more appealing, but I don’t think they’re nearly enough. Yes, it’s your decision to eat yourself into oblivion – no one can dispute that. However, with rising health costs and the negative messages being sent to the youth of the nation, I feel something much more drastic should be done.
Stat sources: http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/full/hlthaff.w4.480/DC1