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Obesity declared a global crisis

For many years experts questioned whether global hunger or global obesity was a bigger crisis- now we know. According to a recent report published in the British Medical Journal, “The Lancet,” researchers agree that there has been a massive shift in the health trends for individuals worldwide.

In the published study, which allowed 500 researchers to review health data from 50 countries for the last twenty years, researchers found that there has been a shift global health issues. Kids, who 20 years ago would have died from infectious diseases, are now faced with “alarmingly high obesity rates” with an increase of 82% globally in the last twenty years (with the exception of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa).

What does this mean? With the increase in obesity rates Medical doctors are now seeing diseases such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes increase in alarming rates as well. Back pain has also grown substantially as a common complaint. One of the researchers in the study indicated that obesity, which can increase the likelihood of acquiring certain diseases, could be attributed to the adoption of what is referred to as the “Western Lifestyle,” and lowering of obesity rates could decrease all the incidences of the above mentioned conditions.

What medical experts are finding, however, is that although the rate of death from certain illnesses is decreasing, in large part to medical advancements, people now suffer with increased pain and disability. So although we may be extending the life of individuals, the quality of living extra years may not be so high.

The medical community is starting to shift their focus from dealing with non-communicable diseases, such as stroke, heart disease and diabetes, to preventing them. According to Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, in her speech to the U.N. General Assembly last year, she noted that the rise of certain types of medical conditions, many of which can be attributed to the increase of the obesity rates, may eventually “break the bank.” And she’s not joking with an estimated $30 trillion to be spent on these common medical conditions within the next 20 years, according to a 2011 report by the World Economic Forum and Harvard School of Public Health.

The solution seems so simple: put the fork down, push yourself away from the table and get out and move. For so many people the challenge seems to be greater. Whether it’s a single mom working two jobs that struggles to get any food on the table (much less healthy food) or the rising cost of fresh fruit and vegetables, it can be a complicated issue. Others contend that “emotional” eating can also be a challenge that is not readily addressed.

What is problematic is the decrease in productivity from a workforce that is not healthy enough to work. Not to mention the higher disability rates which currently threaten America’s Social Security Disability Insurance programs. What we will see in the coming years is a country that needs to make some changes before the cost of healthcare threatens all of us.