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Published: September, 2012; Vol 9, Num 4

 

Obesity Rates Slow, But More Americans Obese

The good news is that obesity rates in the United States seem to be leveling off. The bad news is that two-thirds of all adults and one-third of all children in the U.S. are overweight or obese. The rate may be slowing, but the problem has hardly gone away.

Achieve Your Healthy Weight and Fitness Goals with Help
From the LHSFNA

Taking off the pounds and keeping them off is an ongoing challenge. The LHSFNA’s Becoming Physically Active and Weight Matters brochures and Body Mass Index Card make it easier for Laborers and their families to achieve this goal. Order them through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.

A report in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine predicts that 42 percent of Americans will be obese within 20 years. Related health care costs will rise to $550 billion. Excess weight increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, assorted cancers, sleep apnea and numerous other chronic illnesses.

"While personal responsibility often plays a central role in obesity, if this battle is to be won, workplaces, schools, health care providers and insurers must be more involved," says LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck. "Also, youngsters should have access to effective obesity screenings and counseling so that they can learn and carry into adulthood the ABCs of healthy eating and exercise."

Alternate description

LHSFNA Management Co-Chairman Noel C. Borck

Personal Responsibility and the Laborer

Making healthy food choices and exercising can be the difference in whether one is obese or at appropriate weight. Laborers can find ways to do both during the work day. For example, whether packing a lunch from home or buying from a food truck, select lean meats, whole grain breads, beans, nuts, vegetables and fruit. Tuna, lean meats and sliced eggs can be dressed up in salads and sandwiches with a variety of greens, sprouts and pepper strips. Quench thirst with water, unsweetened tea or diet sodas. Cardiovascular exercise is also a must. In addition to helping Laborers lose excess pounds and keep them off, cardiovascular exercise increases overall strength, endurance, flexibility and balance; all of which help reduce the likelihood of getting injured on the job. Wherever you work, look for opportunities to engage in cardio activities. In other words, move. Walk during breaks. If work finds you at a site where you have a choice between taking the steps or an elevator, opt for the steps. Off the clock, make time to engage in more sustained cardio exercises such as running, bicycling and swimming.

Sedentary Jobs

Not everyone works outside. Some are confined to office buildings. In these instances, employers can provide opportunities to eat sensibly and incentives to move around. Trust for America’s Health, (TFAH) a non-profit health advocacy organization, urges employers to:

  • Offer Wellness and Disease Prevention Programs and Benefits. Nutrition, physical activity and obesity counseling can improve employee health, productivity and reduce absenteeism.
  • Provide Opportunities for Employees to Be Active. Encourage employees to take the stairs. Stock cafeterias and vending machines with healthy food options.
  • Replace Smoke Breaks with Fitness Breaks. Encourage employees to engage in physical activity during breaks. Walking breaks can improve mental focus in addition to physical health.
  • Advocate for Prevention Services. Ask insurers to offer plans that cover nutrition counseling, weight loss and weight management programs.

Laborers as Parents

Obesity among children and adolescents has more than tripled in the last twenty years. Guidelines for Schools to Promote Healthy Eating and Physical Activity, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help schools take steps to reduce this number. The Guidelines call for daily physical education classes as well as incorporation of physical activities throughout the school day. They also call for schools to ensure that only nutritious foods and beverages are available in cafeterias, vending machines, school stores, concession stands and fundraisers. Through participation in school organizations such as PTAs, Laborers can urge their children's schools to implement and follow the Guidelines.

Health Care Visits

A health care visit usually involves a check of the lungs, heart and blood pressure. With the Institute of Medicine (IOM) calling for the medical profession to step up involvement in the obesity fight, checking body mass index (BMI) may also become routine.

Adults with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese. Children are considered obese if their BMI is at the 95th percentile or higher for peers of the same age and sex (see Assess Your Health).

Although the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend routine monitoring of BMI, most doctors do not. Ask to have your BMI and your children's BMI checked.

Obesity Screenings

Obesity screenings and obesity counseling for children are part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), and some insurers are beginning to implement weight loss programs through partnerships with hospitals and local YMCAs. As children are not typically doing the family shopping and cooking, the most effective learning-to- be-lean programs also involve parents. Together, a family learns about healthy food choices, portion size and appropriate eating habits such as not eating out of boredom and, at meal time, sitting down at a table instead of in front of the TV set.

"The lasting impact of these measures remains to be seen," Borck says. "Success will be gauged when today’s overweight and obese youngsters – now one out of every three – not only complete the programs but grow up without  becoming overweight and obese adults."

[Janet Lubman Rathner]