Nurse's view: The healthy choice should be the easy choiceThe United States is in a full-fledged battle against obesity. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health have invested heavily in research- and evidence-based interventions aimed at finding a solution to this serious health problem.
By: Josh Gorham, for the News Tribune
The United States is in a full-fledged battle against obesity. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health have invested heavily in research- and evidence-based interventions aimed at finding a solution to this serious health problem.
Being obese predisposes one to chronic disease, shorter life expectancy and poorer quality of life. While obesity rates climb, the overall wellness of our communities is certain to suffer. This generation of children is the first to have a shorter life expectancy than its parents. These outcomes certainly do not reflect our community’s values as a whole; among them is that everyone deserves the opportunity to be safe and healthy.
We are habitually consuming more energy than we burn. We either eat too much, eat the wrong kinds of foods or do not move enough. Research suggests all the above contribute to the obesity problem.
From an anecdotal perspective, it is not difficult to see our culture played a role in the onset of the obesity epidemic. A small soft drink from a fast-food chain today is the same size as the large fast-food drink three decades ago. Marketing strategists know that “bigger is better.” Technology is great, but it has placed many of us in cubicles in front of computer screens. A generation or two of children have grown up with the Internet and entertaining video games.
These sedentary alternatives are something parents can easily approve of when considering the perceived vulnerability of children playing outdoors unsupervised.
How do children of today get to school? How did children of the 1980s, 1970s and 1960s get to school? There is absolutely a difference. Streets are designed and built with automobiles first and foremost in mind. It should be no surprise Americans ranked last when compared to several other countries when it comes to utilizing active modes of transport to meaningful destinations; our infrastructure does not encourage it.
Is it that Americans are lazy gluttons who are raising a generation of children to be sedentary, sugar-consuming indoor dwellers? No way. We live in a society that has made it difficult to make the healthy choice.
Where can you get a healthy snack on the run? Are you inundated with unhealthy choices?
How safe or realistic is it for you to walk or bike to work or other meaningful destinations? What has your city done to create streets that are safe for all people, whether 8 or 88? What does your child’s school do to promote physical activity? Does it have a Safe Routes to School program or incorporate Active School Day principles into its curriculum?
If we truly value health and safety for all, there is much that can be done to make the healthy choice the easy choice. That is why the Statewide Health Improvement Program was refunded this past legislative session. Watch for future articles outlining what currently is happening in Duluth to make the healthy choice the easier choice.
Josh Gorham is a St. Louis County public health nurse and Statewide Health Improvement Program coordinator based in Duluth.