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  • What’s the connection between obesity and poverty?
  • December 26, 2013
  • By Emily Miller

    Obesity is more commonly found in high-income countries rather than middle to low-income countries. The international trend is that greater obesity tracks with greater wealth, according to a report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

    For example, economic growth in China and India also increased obesity rates by several-folds.

    With the United States being one of the wealthiest countries, obesity rates are also one of the highest in the world. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey shows that more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese with conditions predicted to worsen.

    In the U.S., obesity tends to be the highest in low-income households. This is because those individuals have limited access to healthy, nutritious food, which was especially evident during the last economic recession. Low-income families would forgo healthy foods for cheaper conveniences foods because they were concerned with quantity rather than quality.

    The cost of fruits, vegetables and whole grains are much higher than those of high-fat, high-carb processed foods that are sold in larger quantities and have a longer shelf life, reports the Florida-Times Union.

    Similarly, parks and sport facilities are less available to people at or below the poverty line. Low-income families lack the necessary funds to afford gym memberships, athletic clothing, and/or exercise equipment.

    Obesity in the U.S. is not only a health issue, but also an economic and political issue. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that obese Americans pay 42 percent more in healthcare costs and life insurance premiums than normal weight individuals.

    The link between obesity, inactivity and poverty may be too costly to ignore because obesity-associated chronic disease accounts for approximately 70 percent of the U.S. health costs.

    In the U.S., health care costs for individuals with diabetes approximates 9 million dollar per year and around 9,000 dollars per new diabetes patient per year, according to a report by the NCBI.

    The Obama administration has launched a nationwide campaign to educate Americans about nutrition and instituted measures, such as the National School Lunch Program, to provide healthier food options to children. Obesity is linked to the development of life-threatening health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and stroke.

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