Last week, I wrote briefly on the efforts local churches in Mississippi have made to improve the health of their communities. Unfortunately, our nation is trending in the opposite, less-healthy direction. A recent report on the international obesity crisis from The Lancet states that half of U.S. adults will qualify as obese by 2030. That’s not all: the study projected medical costs for obesity-related disorders would go up $66 billion per year by 2030.
Another study, reported on by MSNBC, found that obesity currently costs some states up to $15 billion a year, not only in health care costs but in the loss of productivity as well. Obese adults tend to miss more days of work due to illness and are less productive overall than their healthier co-workers.
One word comes to my mind: “Ouch.” In a time of economic turmoil, our nation cannot support these costs.
On the other hand, The New York Times reported on a new national food service program, FoodCorps, which aims to address issues of healthy eating in schools. FoodCorps will build community gardens at schools, bring in healthier meal plans to cafeterias, educate students on healthy diets, and (I saved the best for last) cost only $2 million this first year.
$2 million spent in prevention sounds a lot better than billions of dollars spent in cures.
Awareness of an issue is key to fighting against it. Churches hold a unique place in educating the community because their congregants know that the church wants to help and protect them. It’s clear: when it comes to obesity, there is great harm to be had. Aware communities can speak and act for better lunches in local schools, better and more grocery stores in our neighborhoods, and legislation that helps us live healthier lives.
The Lancet study notes that if the entire population decreased their BMI by 1% (roughly 1 kg for an average-weight adult), the U.S. could avoid up to 2.4 million cases of diabetes, 1.7 million cardiovascular diseases, and 1.27 million cases of cancer. Those are numbers for which I am willing to speak and act.
– Leslie Forrest, NC State School of Social Work intern, NC Council of Churches