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Our Obeses Environment

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Our Obese Environment

Recently over the past few years, much has been reported about childhood and youth obesity. Contemporary articles in the American Medical Association reported that 15% of 5-19 year olds, which is estimated at 9,000,000 in the United States, are overweight, and the amount of childhood obesity has raised attention regarding both the psychological and physical health of our nation's youth.

How did this happen? The National Institute of Diabetes, & Digestive & Kidney Diseases (NIDD), National Institutes of Health, documented that children become overweight for the same reasons grown ups do by burning less energy than they are consuming through their food. Even though genetics does play a key factor in obesity, it does not account for all the rise our nation has seen in children and youth who are obese or overweight. This rise goes across all ages and racial groups in the U.S. (NIDDK, 1998). Socioeconomic status is the most important key factor when dealing with obesity. Children of all races who are of low socioeconomic status are approximately 70% more likely to be obese when compared to those of a socioeconomic status.

As stated by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), several environmental factors have contributed to increasing numbers of obesity among youth, including frequently more time spent in sedentary activities such as playing video games and watching T.V., and the accessibility of fast foods and the very harmful supersizing of fast foods that points to diets high in sugar and fat. And guess who suffers most from these dilemmas, children in poverty. Children in poverty are less likely able to have the opportunity to engage in physical activities because of the lack of resources needed to do them. Parents are unable to provide the necessary tools or environment for their child to participate in any sports. So this would be a case of "insular poverty" according to Galbraith. Youth leagues that use to be affordable to the vast public for a small price are being replaced by expensive leagues that not only require a pricy membership fee to join but also require additional equipment to play sports which use to be provided by the league. To meet family's ends mean, parents of low socioeconomic status must work outside the home and work tedious long hours. This causes them to have no time to prepare healthy meals at home for their children, resulting in frequent visits to the fast food drive-through on their way home from work. (Reported by the American Heart Disease Association)

So what must we due to stop this ever growing epidemic in the United States, we must go to the route of the problem as stated above. For childhood obesity stems from "insular poverty." Children in poverty live in environments that can only lead to obesity so we must adapt to a new policy to what many researchers are no regarding as "urban sprawl." Urban sprawl is distinguished by housing developments that are built outside of city centers in distinct and rural areas, most frequently off highways, where citizens must drive to get to school, work, or shop. Also know as "smart growth" this campaign supports building neighborhoods with sidewalks and bike lanes in closer proximity to schools, shopping and workplaces. These types of neighborhoods will naturally encourage a more active lifestyle. By passing a bill that requires all new housing developments to use the campaign of "urban sprawl" we will see a dramatic decrease in childhood obesity. This bill will also require that all people of socioeconomic class to be of high priority when purchasing new homes or apartments. The government will provide financial assistant to those wishing to accommodate these places. This can be in the form of direct low interest loans, or the government directly lowering the price of these neighborhoods to the low socioeconomic families and the government pay the difference. Where will the government get the money to pay for this? The government can provide financial incentives to the land developers in the form tax rebates if they lower their prices to families of low social economic status. But wouldn't this create another system of stratification to those of high above social economical status; the answer to this is no since latest statistics, according the American Housing Contract Association, show that 80% of families the United States considered as middle-class already live in neighborhoods that are considered to be urban sprawl neighborhoods, compared to the %10 of low social economic that live in the neighborhoods. How can this be realistic, how can we provide enough urban sprawl neighborhoods for the vast low social economical class in America. Well this is realistic since the real-estate economy is at a recession. There are plenty of urban sprawl neighborhoods where homes are unoccupied due to the high price of the home. If the government were to offer these financial incentives to these housing developers then low social economic families will easily be able to afford these homes. A recent survey done by the American Housing Contract Association also shows that contractors estimate to increase housing production by 40% in the nest seven years to meet the growing population. Now if that bill were to be passed then all this new neighborhoods will be built in urban sprawl fashions.

How do we know this will work and actually help stop child obesity? Recent studies done by the American Heart Disease Association show those neighborhoods that meet the requirements of an urban sprawl community show a 57% decline in childhood obesity when compared to those neighborhoods that are not (AHDA 2006). If this plan were to be implemented today childhood obesity would decrease dramatically.

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