Public health programs, including those that address obesity, are funded through a combination of federal, state, and local dollars (Federal Funding for Obesity, 2015.) For example, the CDC, the NIH, HHS, and the health departments of each individual state have all identified obesity as a public health problem that must be addressed. An example of the commitment to combat obesity is the CDC’s objective to reduce obesity and obesity-related diseases via state programs, research, surveillance, training, intervention development, leadership, policy, and environmental change (Federal Funding for Obesity, 2015.) The commitment to obesity is a relatively modern phenomenon, as in the past, the emphasis on healthy eating and weight control simply didn’t exist on such a large scale but rather was addressed in more private means such as between family doctors and their patients, and through groups such as Weight Watchers.
In addition, there are a range of private sources of funding for the prevention and treatment of obesity. The Obesity Society maintains several grants programs in order to promote, reward, and encourage research in the field of obesity, according as much as $25,000 for a one-year period to support innovations in research proposals related to obesity (Research, Education, Action, 2010.) In addition, there are “named research grants” given to people involved in research or treatment of obesity that enriches the body of knowledge that is available to health care and other professionals. There are also several private grants given by the estates of individual donors, such as the Pat Simons Travel Grant, which was named for a woman who died from obesity and whose family is interested in promoting the prevention and recognition of obesity as a disease. The existence of private initiatives to address obesity is a relatively new aspect of prevention and treatment, as it has been during the last several decades in particular that obesity has been recognized as a serious health problem that contributes to mortality rates.
Research has been conducted to analyze the various types of programs conducted to address the problem of obesity. One exhaustive analysis considered 25 years of research evaluating weight loss programs designed to address the problem of obesity; the researchers found that most such programs were experimental and did not actually contain validity that is essential for scientific research. Diet and exercise were clearly the most frequently used responses to overweight and obesity, and were applied in programs in which males and females were trying to lose weight. The researchers concluded that diet and exercise therapy for the obese should be aimed at the severely obese as well as the elderly obese because they are at the greatest risk for obesity linked complications (Miller, 1997.) The authors found that it was generally assumed that diet and exercise were the most effective way to respond to overweight and obesity, and questioned whether this was indeed the most effective response for every individual with that condition. On a short-term basis, however, they did feel that diet alone and/or a diet and exercise program was recommended.
In more modern times, programs such as the First Lady’s “Let’s Move!” Initiative as well as her focus on healthy eating and growing vegetables in one’s own garden has exemplified a movement towards prevention of obesity and overweight lifestyles.
Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, a great many Americans–millions–were uninsured, many of were living below the poverty line. Hunger and obesity are closely associated with this segment of the population, and although there are certain state and government programs that are available to provide them with nutritional food, frequently these programs do not pay the costs are more expensive foods such as fresh produce (Openchowsky, 2012.) As a result, people are put in the position of having to spend their money on foods that are cheaper and less healthy, with the result that the obesity rate continues to grow for these Americans. However, the ACA provides prevention programs for various conditions including obesity, so people who are able to obtain insurance at this point have an increased chance to receive medical help that will either prevent or treat obesity and overweight. There is no question that being insured puts people in a better position to maintain a healthy weight because of the tremendous support system available to provide education and nutritional counseling as well as healthcare professional contacts.
The issue of obesity has received a great deal of attention in the last several years, childhood obesity in particular, so that it has been considered a serious public health issue that must be addressed on federal, state, and local levels. The tremendous costs resulting from obesity-related health complications have provided a large incentive for public and private institutions to present the public with help regarding this issue. The fact that child obesity has been addressed in many settings, including schools, has been a successful attempt to thwart obesity in young people in order to help them avoid the problem later on in life.
The issue of obesity is addressed differently across various nations, most of which provide universal health care as opposed to the private insurance system available to Americans. For example, in Canada, universal access to health care provides Canadians with a lower rate of mortality than their American counterparts because of differences in availability of medical care that results in healthier citizens. For example, the obesity rate in the United States is higher than that in Canada, with 33% of women in the United States considered to be obese as opposed to 19% in Canada. Universal healthcare allows people to see their medical professionals on a much more regular basis, so that prevention and treatment of overweight likely results in the lower obesity numbers in their population.
- Comparing the US and Canadian healthcare systems. (n.d.). Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research.org: http://www.nber.org/bah/fall07/w13429.html
- Federal funding for obesity prevention. (2015). Retrieved from State of Obesity.org: http://stateofobesity.org/federal-funding-obesity-prevention/
- Miller, W., Koceja,., & Hamilton, E. (1997). A meta-analysis of the past 25 years of weight loss research using diet, exercise, or diet plus exercise intervention. International Journal of Obesity, 941-947.
- Openchowsky, E. (2012, May 21). Linking obesity and health care. Retrieved from Center for American Progress: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/healthcare/news/2012/05/21/11514/linking-obesity-and-health-care/
- Research, education, action. (2010). Retrieved from Obesity.org: http://www.obesity.org/about-us/obesity-society-grants.htm