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Childhood Obesity Task Force

Today, President Obama formed a task force to tackle the problem of childhood obesity. The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has pushed for this and will apparently help lead the campaign.

According to the article, one out of every three children in the U.S. are currently obese, this being triple the ratio it was in 1980. Personally, I am not too quick to accept this as a fact only due to my belief that the only method for determining obesity is not a very accurate one. At least, it isn't in accord to the way most people define the word 'obesity', anyhow.

It was a while ago, but I wrote a blog about how it is determined whether or not someone is obese. The formula is not a complex one, by any means, and, therefore, doesn't take enough factors into account. Obesity is determined by BMI(Body Mass Index). BMI is determined by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters. Then the following scale tells you where you stand (or sit or lie down, for that matter).

* Underweight = <18.5
* Normal weight = 18.5-24.9
* Overweight = 25-29.9
* Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater

Are height and weight the only factors that should be used to determine how healthy you are or are not? Surely, this should not be so. I would think that build plays a huge role, but I won't get into this again. I repeat myself a lot in the real world, but online I try to limit it wherever possible.

So, I do think that the numbers given in this article and others like it sound a lot worse than what they actually are. On the other hand, people are getting fatter. There's no denying that. I applaud The White House and the President for admitting it and doing something to combat it. But, what might be done?

In the article and a couple others that I scanned-read, I only saw education as a plan. This is important, to educate America how to make healthy choices. But, does it stand to be the answer to the problem? Most definitely not. Is it possible that it will bring us halfway to solving the problem? Probably not. Will it make much of a difference at all? I hope so, but I doubt it.

I'm not trying to be negative. I just think that 95% of us know how to live healthy lifestyles, but that only about 20% of us actually do what we know. That only leaves an education campaign a chance of improvement of 5%. To the other 95% it's just beating a dead horse. Maybe some of those, after being re-educated, might find a renewed sense of motivation, but how many will, I wonder?

I think education is a good start, but I would suggest not to spend too much time, energy, or money on it. Privately funded documentaries such as Super Size Me and Food, Inc. have done more to educate America on the health risks of poor eating choices than our government will ever accomplish, anyway.

I believe that there is another solution and that it has been spoken in complaint form at one time or another by everyone in the U.S. who has ever tried to eat only healthy foods: "It's not right that eating healthy should cost so much!" I believe that this is the biggest problem plaguing Americans with poor health today. If you've ever been to a health food store and walked the aisles, you know what I am talking about. I've seen a few decent prices here and there on certain items, but for the most part healthy, organic food prices can be two and three times the price as their chemically produced counterparts.

Much of this is due to the way farming is run these days. Subsidies are paid to farmers to grow certain things during certain seasons and the farmers grow what they are paid to grow. End of story. The effects this has is that the only way to make a profit is to grow lots and grow it fast. Chemical farming, genetically modified seeds, and artificial hormones are used to get the most for their efforts. To grow something other than subsidized crops like organic crops that have no subsidies means that the farmer is carrying all the cost and all the risk if those crops don't sell in the market. The costs and the cost of the risk is passed on to the consumer.

Let's look at the opposite of subsidized crops for a minute. What about the tobacco industry? They've taken a lot of grief these last twenty years, haven't they? They're being blamed for one of the largest health epidemics in the United States and they're being forced to pay for it. We've seen the cost of cigarettes go from roughly 75 cents a pack to almost $5 a pack in my lifetime alone. This cost increase wasn't the result of tobacco getting harder find or anything. It's the cigarette producers handing down the costs of settlements, litigation, and most importantly, increased taxation. In an effort to discourage smoking and also to recoup some of the health care costs caused by smoking, our government as dramatically increased the amount of taxes on cigarettes.

So, using this logic, it stands to reason that a possible solution to our nation's so-called epidemic would be to tax the junk out of the junk food producing companies, while subsidizing the healthy food and organically grown foods. If the tables were to be turned and unhealthy foods were two and three times the cost of healthy ones, America would no doubt choose healthier meals. Alongside our population getting healthier, health care costs would decrease, health insurance premiums would get more competitive and would dramatically drop in price. Our country's health care problem could be solved, people! But, as they say, it would take an act of Congress to get any of this to happen so quickly. Maybe that's just what we need.


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