Obesity is defined as “ The state of being grossly fat or overweight”. It is measured by the body mass index. Persons who have a BMI greater or equal to 30 are categorized as obese. However, according to the National Health Service, BMI cannot be used for persons who are very muscular, since persons in this type sometimes have a BMI greater than 30 without excess fat. Nevertheless, there are not many people who have BMI greater than 30 without excess fat, so the BMI is the easiest way to measure obesity. Obesity is not a personal problem because there are many effects to the public in many ways. In this essay, I am going to explain why there is an increase in obesity, the costs of obesity, the justifications for public health intervention, and policies that were implemented in tackling obesity. Increasing in Obesity There are six main reasons that can be explained why there is an increase in obesity both in adults and children in the United States.
First of all is technological change. Technological change seems to be a positive change to society. It improves agriculture, transportation, healthcare, industries and etc., but why technological change is the main cause of an increase in obesity.
Firstly, improvement in the agricultural sector which affected by technological change can increase a large number of obese persons. Because of technological change, planting, harvesting and raising animals are more easier. Farmers do not have to do everything by themselves, for example, they use tractors to sow seeds, instead of hiring a lot of farmers to do. Moreover, nowadays, farmers use insecticide to prevent losses. Both tractors and insecticide are productions which be produced from technology and innovation. This is a positive change in society since costs of agricultural products decrease. However, this is also a negative effect that causes people to gain weight. A decrease in costs of an agricultural product affects a decrease in the price of food and groceries. Price is a sensitive effect for everybody because it measures the amount of money that they spend on goods and services, so changing in the price of food and groceries directly affects people consumption. If the price of food and groceries increases, people will buy less food and groceries because they have the same amount of budget. On the other hand, if the price of food increases, people will buy more which is they will consume more. That is a cause of an increase in obesity. Secondly, the technological change in the food industry creates new types of food such as instant noodle, frozen food, ice cream, and can food. These food are easy to prepare and eat which conveniently for everyone who does not have enough time to prepare his or her own meal.
However, these type of foods is not good for health. They include a lot of sodium, sugar, MSG, and preservative which have negative effects on health. These food are also high caloric food that causes a weight gaining. Thirdly, the technological change in the home kitchen can arise obesity. It goes side by side with the technological change in the food industry. The example of the new technological home kitchen is a microwave. The microwave is easy to use, even people who cannot cook, they know how to use the microwave. A reason that it goes together with the food industry is most of the new types of food using the microwave to cook. Since it is convenient and easy to use, people can prepare their meals many times a day with it.
Moreover, food that can cook by microwave is frozen food and instant food, so people who usually use microwave get more caloric intake. Fourthly, other technological changes such as transportation and digital network decrease physical activities which also cause an increase in obesity. Nowadays, people are more comfortable because they drive from one place to other places instead of walk or bike even though distant between two places is not far. Moreover, if they are hungry, but they cannot go out or too lazy to go out, they can ask for food delivery. In addition, people can shop online. They can buy everything through their computers or smartphones. Even though food delivery and online shopping were created for saving times and costs of going out, it cannot be denied that the physical activities of each person in everyday life are decreasing. Even if humans eat in the same amount, their weight will increase and the possibility of being obese persons will increase because the calorie out which calculate from exercising, BMR, and physical activities are less than calories intake that measure from a calorie of eaten food. The second reason is eating out at a fast-food restaurant and full-service restaurant.
Undoubtedly, most fast food restaurants sell high caloric food such as fried chicken, burger, fries, pizza, ice-cream, and cola. These food consist of oil and salt or cream and sugar which cannot be eaten too much. Similarly to a full-serve restaurant, even though there is low caloric food in the restaurant but most are high caloric food. Hence, the person who always eats out at a fast-food restaurant or full-service restaurant has a higher possibility to gain weight which is an increase in the possibility of being an obese person. The third reason is an increase in working woman. More women choose to work instead of being a housewife. In some families, the salary of the woman before getting married is higher than the salary of man, so to maintain their income there is no reason to quite work for being a housewife. Moreover, this is not the era that women cannot work, there are many works that are suitable for a woman than a man, and there is an equality in woman and man, so many women decide to be working women. This is one of the important reason that causes an increase in obesity because home meal preparation is decreasing. When the woman started to work, she has to go to work in the morning and come back on an evening or at night, so it is easier to buy food from the restaurant instead of preparing by herself. Since food from restaurants is not good for health as home cooking and contains high calorie, the possibility of being obese is higher. In addition, if that family have children, their children tend to be overweight because in the morning they eat food that their mothers can make as fast as they can such as frozen food or sugary cereal.
The fourth reason is the crackdown on smoking via tax increases. Smoking, without a doubt, is not good for health so the government imposed a tax on a cigarette. When the price of cigarette increases, with the same budget constraint, many people cannot afford. Hence there are many people stopped smoking. Because there is no more nicotine stimulate pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) to decrease hungriness, people who stopped smoking want to eat more. Therefore, people who stopped smoking gain weight. The fifth reason is a gaining in income. When an increase in income is an increase in budget constraint, so budget content curve shifts to the right. That is an increase in income have an effect on people to consume more and increase the opportunity of eat outside. Hence, a gaining in income is a part of the reason that obesity increases. The final reason is health insurance. People who joined health insurance change their behaviors. Some of them do something that is not good for health such as eating more high caloric food and quitting exercising because they think that they have health insurance so there is no worry with the cost of hospitalization.
Therefore health insurance decreases people’s health consciousness and responsibility. Hence a possibility of people who join health insurance to be obese is high. The Costs of Obesity The first cost is lifetime costs of obesity. Obesity is not only affected to increased in risk of being Hypertension, Coronary Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, Type 2 Diabetes, Stroke, Emphysema, Bronchitis and Psychological disorders such as depression, and various types of cancer, but it is also affected to reduced in life expectancy.
According to a prominent study by Fontaine, Redden, Wang, Westfall, and Allison (2003), there is a heterogeneity in the effects of overweight and obesity on life expectancy. There is a diminishing between ages and life expectancy for an obese person. The second cost is an increase in expenditure grows. Obesity affects a higher in health expenditure. Obese people do indeed spend more on health care than thin people ( Bertakis and Azari, 2005; Burton, Chen, Schultz, and Edington, 1999; Raebel, Malone, Conner, Xu, Porter, and Lanty, 2004; Sturm 2002; Finkelstein, Fieldlkorn, and Wang 2003). Moreover, according to Bhattacharya and Burdorf research, the difference in expenditure grows with age and is greater than for women than for men. When people get older, they take care of their health more than when they are young, so they spend more money on health care, especially obese people. Even though both obese and thin have similar demand for health care, obese spend more money on their health than thin.
According to a study by Bhattacharya and Bundorf (2009), there is a relation between obesity, wages, and insurance. Moreover, a study shows that the likelihood that any subsidy the obese receive through pooled health insurance is offset by wage differentiation. Wages of obese workers are lower than wages of their thinner workmates infirm that offer health insurance because employer-driven discrimination against the obese and there is severe pressure on firms which provide employer-sponsored insurance from the market. If the wage rate does not depend on workers’ body weight, in a competitive market, the firm will hire only thin workers.
Health insurance leads to two different forms of moral hazard. First one is a potential distortion in people’s body weight choices after joining an insurance pool such as Medicare and Medicaid, in case that health insurance pool risk across obese and thin. Because of an insurance pool, some thin people may eat more or exercise less. However, some of the thin people may decrease their insurance coverage because they would like to get more insurance premiums due to increasing obesity in the insurance pool. Hence, health insurance does not affect a change in body weight, since health insurance premiums can be adjusted which depends on individuals preference. Nevertheless, if health insurance premiums cannot be adjusted, obese people have no motivation to reduce their body weight. Hence instead of saving health care costs from thin members, that amount of money is used for obese members in the pool. So, high medical expenditure is paid to obese. Nonetheless, if the pooled health insurance does not affect a change in behavior, a pooled insurance contract is a lump sum transfer from what thin people in the pool pay to what obese people in the pool receive (Jay Bhattacharya and Neeraj Sood). However, there is no social loss for lump sum transferring if there is no change in behavior. Another one is a reduction in the out-of-pocket price of health care lead to a change in demand for health care.
Moreover, from a study by Goldman, Zheng, Gisori, Michaud, Olshansky, Cutler, and Rowe (2009), obesity is a persistent condition. Only a few percentages of nonobese people at age 51 become obese later in life. On the other hand, around seventy-five percent of obese people at age 51 is still obese. These are the reasons that obesity leads to public health expenditures. The Justifications for Public Health Intervention Nowadays, people concerns about their appearance and beauty, so the actual weight is desired by most people, not the BMI. They not only want to look good for themselves, but they also want to look good in other people preference. This is a harm from a beautiful person to less beautiful person, which denies an increase in aggregate social welfare. The effects of obesity are a larger amount of subsidizing on medical care and increasing morbidity and mortality. Public health intervenes by publicly financed education about benefits from dieting and exercising. Many obese people cannot control their dietary and exercise habits, so instead of trying in hard to exercising and dieting, they should to take dietary pills.
Moreover, even though there are much obese wants to lose their weight, they do not know how to lose their weight correctly and healthily because they do not understand the mechanism of burning calories. Hence, public health intervention that supports and pushes obese people to change their behavior in the correct way is very important. Since there are many obese suffer from diseases, government intervenes by supporting pharmaceutical firms and funding universities and medical schools for developing in medical care, vaccine, and medicine. Not every obese have enough money to pay for the operation, so supporting in health care is necessary for them. Policies Might be Implemented to Tackle Obesity One of the policies that might be implemented to tackle obesity is the imposition of taxes on high caloric food. Imposing taxes on high-calorie food such as junk food and fast food causes people to decrease their consumption on that type of food since they have a budget constraint which if the price of high caloric food increases, demand for it will decrease. Hence this is one of the easiest ways to reduce their consumption of high caloric food. However, this policy is not fair for some groups of people who consume high caloric food appropriately because this policy imposes costs on them. Even though imposing taxes on high caloric food can protect an increase in obesity, it can increase the cost to people who eat high caloric food moderately, so another way that does impose cost twosome group of people is encouraging and rewarding exercise. Without a doubt, exercising is good for health. There are many benefits from exercising such as controlling weight, improving mood, boosting energy, and combating health conditions and diseases. Since exercise can prevent gaining weight, encouraging people to exercise is one-way controlling obesity. To encourage people to exercise, the government subsidizes facilities.
Subsidising sports equipment causes a decreasing in sports equipment’s price, so people have purchasing power for buying sports equipment. Building places such as public gyms, public swimming pools, and parks with the low costs of using are one way that can motivate people to work out. If people deny to eat lots of high caloric food, but they do not exercise, they can maintain weight but cannot lose their weight. In the same way, if they work out every day, but they still eat lots of high caloric food, they also can just maintain weight. Hence, for obese persons, they have to limit their high caloric food consumption and increase their exercise, which helps them to lose their weight. Therefore, applying just one policy can maintain a number of obesity, but cannot decreasing obesity, so both policies should be applied at the same time for reducing the number of obesity.
Since children who are overweight tend to become an obese adult, improving children’s health is very important. For children, most of the food that children consume are prepared from adults, so if there is a policy that has an impact on adults’ food consumption, children’s food consumption will be changed. Therefore, another policy is involving in children’s lives. School is an important factor for involving children’s life because every child has to go to school, so they spend lots of time in school. By changing children’s food consumption, improving school lunch to be healthier should be provided to every school. Subsidising school lunch at each school for buying healthy ingredients helps children to consume good food. Moreover, supporting recreational facilities and school programs for children can increase children’s physical activities which also increase calorie burn per day.