Obesity – a chronic health disease

Harris Kamran Health Sciences Review Paper 25 August Obesity: A chronic health disease The growing prevalence of obesity in the world has sparked many health campaigns against the food industry and the media in promoting food products that are unhealthy and related directly to hyper-adiposity (Campos, Saguy, Ernsberger, Oliver, & Gaesser, 2006). What was previously considered a personal choice has now become a national and international issue. Obesity is inherently linked to personal eating habits, and as a result apparently do not fall under governmental or legal control (Gostin, 2007). However, of late, the view has shifted from eating habits from being purely personal choices to an increasingly governmental (Gostin, 2007) and political matter (Morone, 2005), and since it is now considered a federal and international crisis, it is liable to be controlled by the law through legislature and policies (Mello, Studdert, & Brennan, 2006). Organizations at all levels of administration have taken steps towards controlling the spread of obesity, now considered to be more of an epidemic (Campos et al., 2006). These measures are applied at the local, state, national, and international levels.
At the local level, the most important target are the schools, especially the private schools (Mello et al., 2006). This is because children are the most susceptible demographic stratum to be effected by the sale of unhealthy food like soft drinks and candies (Mello et al., 2006). The school boards have now applied policies in which school lunches are supposed to be low on saturated fat, and the number of soft drinks available to children through vending machines and otherwise needs to be cut down (Mello et al., 2006). The schools are adapting a lunch-in policy in which children would be obliged to eat healthier school lunches, and participate more often in physical exercises (Mello et al., 2006). Although the policies might sound strict, they are ethically strong as they are intended to promote a healthier lifestyle.
At the state level, litigations and law suits against the food industry and fast foods like McDonalds have provided much exposure to the concern about healthier eating (Mello et al., 2006). The lawsuits against McDonalds in the state of New York are a popular example (Mello et al., 2006). The states are also promoting the development of parks and grounds for physical activity (Mello et al., 2006). A radical approach is the levying of taxes on junk food like soft drinks and processed food in an attempt to discourage people from purchasing them (Mello et al., 2006). This is a controversial step as it might seem like a forceful approach by the government on personal freedom (Mello et al., 2006). However, as the aim is maintenance of public health, this controversy can be ethically debated.
At the federal level, the ‘ Surgeon General’s report’ (Mello et al., 2006) about the prevalence of obesity has provided much exposure to the general public about the gravity of the situation (Mello et al., 2006). The government has also applied regulations on advertisements run on television that promote fast foods and otherwise unhealthy foods (Mello et al., 2006). Moreover, FDA has, through acts such as ‘ FDCA of 1938’ (Mello et al., 2006) and NLEA of 1994 (Mello et al., 2006), made it mandatory on most food products to display food labels comprising the ingredients of the food, their nutritional value, and any health risks associated with their consumption (Mello et al., 2006).
At the international level, many countries have levied restrictions on advertisements endorsing unhealthy and fattening foods (Mello et al., 2006). ‘ Books and movies’ (Mello et al., 2006) and other media that have a high international sale and value have also highlighted the issue of obesity as a serious health risk and problem (Mello et al., 2006). Although many view these policies as an attack on personal liberty (Mello et al., 2006), the majority of the measures are structured to provide exposure to and awareness of the problem, rather than enforcing them as laws. As long as this remains the main strategy, there is no ethical breach on personal rights in this regard.
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