Obesity and Poverty: A Positive Interrelationship Introduction Obesity remains one of the most serious and complicated health issues in the U.S. Statistically, about two-thirds of adults in America are either overweight or obese. 133.6 million adults are officially considered to suffer the symptoms and complications of excessive weight. Economic costs of obesity and overweight are even more threatening: annually, the U.S. loses up to $120 billion through medical spending in terms of obesity and overweight in different population groups (Lane, 2006). Although obesity is fairly regarded as the direct result of misbalanced nutrition, it is gradually turning into a social and economic problem. It is no longer a secret that low-income populations are more vulnerable to the risks of obesity and overweight. When it comes to poverty, there is a direct relationship between low income and obesity because poor people cannot afford purchasing high quality foods; they lack physical activity; and experience problems with access to medical care, which could potentially reduce the scope of obesity complications in individuals.
Obviously, obesity in the U.S. is directly linked to poverty because poor people cannot afford purchasing expensive high quality food products, but are bound to eat energy-dense foods that are directly responsible for the growing obesity rates. It is difficult to deny the fact that ?the reason healthier diets are beyond the reach of many people is that such diets cost more. On a per calorie basis, diets composed of whole grains, fish, and fresh vegetables and fruit are far more expensive than refined grains, added sugars and added fats? (Anonymous, 2004). For these reasons, poor people obtain higher levels of calories per unit of weight. The more they try to reduce the amount of food spending, the more likely they are to replace healthy diets with the products that contain excessive amounts of fats, energy, and sugars ?
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the elements that are directly responsible for the current obesity epidemic. Food, however, is not the only factor responsible for the direct interrelationship between obesity and poverty: it appears that poor people do not have sufficient opportunities to engage themselves in physical activity. The current trends in work and professionalization patterns show that as work is becoming less physically demanding, people have to pay more in order to stay active: health clubs, fitness centers, exercise equipment ? all these require significant investments, which are unavailable and impossible for low-income American citizens. Statistical research suggests that those earning less than $15,000 account for only 6% of general exercise equipment purchases (Lane, 2006). Also, lower income is associated with lower participation in sports (Lane, 2006). As a result, the combination of poor food and the lack of physical activity makes poor people extremely vulnerable to the risks of becoming obese. Unfortunately, these are further supplemented by the reduced access to healthcare. That poor people do not have enough access to primary healthcare in the U.S. also contributes in the growing rates of obesity in low-income populations. Given that low-income populations are usually eligible to Medicaid coverage, it is also important to know that ?physicians are not required to participate in Medicaid, and 25 percent of U.S. physicians report that they do not include Medicaid patients in their practices. Approximately a third of physicians limit the number of Medicaid patients they treat? (Hernandez et al, 1998). In this situation, poor individuals do not have sufficient opportunities to address their health problems before they turn out to be obese.
Bearing in mind that obesity is also directly responsible for a variety of short-term and long-term complications, it is understandable that fighting poverty in the U.S. is impossible without addressing the major social and economic issues at hand. Conclusion Poverty is directly linked to obesity. That low-income populations are more susceptible to the risks of obesity is readily explained by the three reasons: first, poor people cannot afford healthy diets; second, poor people do not have sufficient material opportunities to engage in physical activity; third, low-income populations experience reduced access to primary healthcare and thus cannot address their obesity issues. Obviously, obesity has already ceased to be a purely medical problem, and is gradually becoming a matter of the major social concern. That is why unless the U.S. is able to address these social and economic issues, it will hardly be possible to reduce the rates of obesity and overweight in the country.