Obesity in America: Unhealthy generations to come?

The growing obesity trend in our county is a national concern. Learn how MSU Extension is helping to address the issue.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of obese adults in America weighs in near 35 percent. For children, it is 17 percent – triple the rate a generation ago! This is a national concern as this is the only generation whose life expectancy may not exceed the previous generation. In addition, obesity can lead to other health concerns such as heart disease, diabetes and sleep apnea. These long-term health effects will lead to long-term costs in health care and productivity in the workforce.

This epidemic is not just happening in urban areas, rural communities are impacted as well. Michigan State University Extension educator Sarah Eichberger recently wrote an article on how rural obesity is already a major problem and how we may combat that issue. Regardless of where they live, children in particular are at risk of obesity related health issues, as the government is now using the term “food insecure” to reference the population of children that are going hungry and yet are still obese. Children in this category consume diets full of high calorie, non-nutritional foods that are typically heavily processed and high in sodium and Trans fats. This diet, coupled with a lack of exercise, leads to obesity.

To help address these issues, MSU Extension’s Health and Nutrition Institute offers youth and families programs on nutrition, physical activity and weight management, among others. These programs include education on eating right, cooking healthy meals and getting physically activity and how this can equate to additional years of life, lower health costs and happier lives. MSU Extension also works with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to educate low-income households on how they can budget their money and still eat healthy. By offering food budgeting resources, as well teaching people how to cook food to maintain its nutritional value, MSU Extension is helping single parents, low-income families and the elderly stretch their incomes in a healthy way.

By helping parents incorporate health and nutrition into their family life, MSU Extension is helping to create healthy children. Healthy children means less doctor’s visits, less time missed from school, better results in school, less medical expenses and generally a happier child. In addition, a life-long healthy child will benefit their community and help to solve future problems, which is good for us all.

This is the fourth article in a six part series about Extension for the future. Other articles in this series include: Feeding the people - now and in the future and New technology takes flight at MSU Extension. Stay tuned for the next article in this series, where we’ll change gears and address climate change and its effect on natural resources.

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