obesity in america

Obesity in the US



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In 1980, fifteen percent of American adults were obese. Today that number has doubled.

Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit group, has just issued its seventh report on obesity in America. Jeff Levi is one of its authors.

Jeff Levi, Trust for America: “In 1991, there wasn’t a single state that had adult obesity rates that were over 20%. Now 38 states have adult obesity rates of more than 25%.”

Since last year, four more states reported adult obesity rates of more than 30%, meaning that at least thirty percent of their populations are obese.

Jeff Levi: “There are many explanations. One is that we’re just much less active than we used to be: we’ve built our society around cars, around being inactive.”

Studies show a link between time on a computer or in front of a TV and obesity.

Other studies point to high calorie fast food. But Levi says there are other risk factors.

Jeff Levi: Obesity is very much associated with poverty.”

Fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish are expensive. And there few grocery stores in low-income neighborhoods. That means poor people find it difficult to buy healthful foods.

Jeff Levi: “Poor people also tend to live in neighborhoods that are less safe, where there are fewer opportunities for physical activity. And so the combination of eating more calorie dense food and fewer opportunities for physical activity, that’s what creates this obesity epidemic.”

Levi praises the Obama Administration and First Lady Michelle Obama for trying to change eating and exercise habits.

Michelle Obama, First Lady: “It’s threatening our children. It’s threatening our families and more importantly, it’s threatening the future of this nation.”

The First Lady has traveled the country in her campaign against childhood obesity. Last year, the Obama Administration pledged more than $400 million to help bring more grocery stores to underserved communities nationwide.

The obesity crisis means more spending on healthcare. The US Centers for Disease Control reports that obesity costs at least $147 billion annually and that figure is based on data from 2006.

Kenneth Thorpe of Emory University expects that number to go even higher.

Kenneth Thorpe, Emory University: “It is the single biggest driver the past ten or fifteen years of why health care spending has risen. We do have this explosion of chronic diseases related to obesity.”

Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer are linked to obesity.

Heath policy experts and doctors hope the reports will help Americans change their lifestyle. Carol Pearson, VOA News.

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1. Is the obesity rate in the United States increasing, decreasing or remaining the same? Are Americans getting fatter?

2. According to health experts, people are getting heavier for only one reason: they eat too much food. Is this right or wrong? How are people less physically active than in the past?

3. Are wealthier people fatter than middle-class and poor people, and are poor people slimmer than middle-class and rich people? Why are many poor people obese?

4. Are politicians and national leaders concerned about poor eating habits and lifestyles? What are some of their proposals?

5. The only problem of obesity is being unattractive. Is this correct or incorrect?

6. Is obesity a very expensive problem for people and the nation?

7. What do the experts hope?


A. Is there obesity where you live? Has the situation been changing over the years?

B. What are the causes of obesity and being overweight?

C. Everyone is alarmed and concerned about obesity. What do you think? Are some people (secretly) happy that people are getting fatter?

D. What might happen in the future?

E. What are the solutions to obesity?


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