Jan 12, 2018 in Research

Obesity in Utah

Obesity, being a prevalent problem in American society, is not an exception in Utah. One in four Utahans is overweight or obese due to various reasons, including unhealthy diet and lack of physical exercise. The diet of many Utahans largely consists of high-fat products. High fat fast-foods made of cheep components often become the basis of their diet. As a result Utah witnesses increase in obesity cases, cancer, diabetes and heart diseases (CDC).   

The quality of life in a community is determined by many factors; however, the most important is the health of its citizens. People are usually good at assessing their own health. In Utah, when people are asked to rate their own health as excellent, good, fair, or poor, they most often choose “poor” or “fair” and almost never “excellent”. According to the report recently published in one of the local Utah online news papers nearly half of all population of the State will be overweight by 2030 (Leonard). The obesity rate has doubled in the past twenty years and is claimed to double again by 2033. Today approximately 24.4 percent of the Utahans are overweight or obese. Being obese or overweight increases the risk of having serious concomitant illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, heart conditions and high blood pressure. Numerous researches suggest that obesity is a major factor causing breathing problems, lungs conditions and asthma.

One of the most effective health programs in Utah is Nutrition and Obesity Program (PANO) that has developed the 10-year action plan aimed at reducing the burden of such chronic diseases, as obesity. The mission of the program consists in promoting healthy lifestyle, good nutrition, regular physical activity and improving the life quality for people of Utah. The program influences changes within schools, local communities, and healthcare settings. The mission especially concentrates on improving obesity levels among children and teenagers (Utah Department of Health and Bureau of Health Promotion 34). It is considered that prevention of obesity needs an early start. The report presented by the Health Affairs Journalclaims that “80 percent of children who were overweight at ages 10-15 were obese at age 25” (Harmon & Dachman 283). Food that kids eat and drink at school is crucially important for their health.  Thus the above mentioned program is addressing the issue in three directions: reducing the high-calorie and low-nutrition meals at schools; increasing access to healthier meals at schools; and helping teachers to encourage kids and their parents to acquire healthier eating habits for a lifetime.

The effectiveness of the program is obvious: according to the CDC Utah stays the sixth least fat state in the U.S. The research conducted by the PANO volunteers enabled determining the average body mass index (BMI) in Utah schools.  These data were presented at numerous obesity forums, including the forum of the University of Utah. These were used at the annual conference of school nurses and published in a peer-reviewed e-journal of CDC. This research was the beginning that helped policy makers to understand the implications of obesity and raise the question about the official legislation to address childhood obesity (UDH & BHP 35).  Additionally, the program is affordable and practically relevant, as the reduction of the average body mass index by 5 %, would save Utah approximately $2 billion by 2020 (Leonard).  

The aim of the whole American nation is to make a collective effort from various groups like schools, local governments and organizations to address obesity. The health and economic future of this country greatly depends on the ability to prevent diseases, preserve health, and reduce costs for healthcare. Such obesity prevention programs as PANO lead the nation to a healthier and more productive future for Utah and the whole country.

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