Inside Opinion

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Tag: obesity


Reality check on Pierce County health: Not so good

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The results are in for Pierce County’s annual heath exam, and there’s no diplomatic way to put this: We’re in bad shape.

Of Washington’s 39 counties, Pierce ranked 26th and fared worse on almost every health metric in comparison to state and national results. This is according to the annual County Health Rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

Pierce rated worse than the other urban-suburban Puget Sound counties, far behind King (ranked sixth), Thurston (ninth) and Kitsap (15th). We fare more poorly than both the state and national measurements in such categories as rates for low-birth-weight babies, adult smoking and obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, teen births, higher education, violent crime and access to healthy food.

Compared to state and national results, we have more premature deaths and more poor physical and mental health days. More of us are unemployed, and we have more children in single-parent households – a key risk factor for poverty and a host of other problems.

About the only category Pierce County excels in is access to fast-food restaurants: 50 percent of us have access, compared to 46 percent statewide and 27 percent nationally. It’s a dubious achievement that – combined with less access to healthy food – could be playing into our higher obesity rate.

So what’s the takeaway here? Unfortunately, it’s not a good one. The results show the need for more public health outreach to low-income and underserved populations at a time when budget cuts probably will mean less will be done. For instance, nearly half of the county’s 12 walk-in family support centers face possible closure due to cuts in Medicaid administrative matching funds.
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Does our comfort zone with fat extend to the Oval Office?

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In recent days, the significant girth of two prominent people has been a weighty issue in the news. The controversy that has been stirred up reflects much about Americans’ conflicted thoughts on body image and personal worth.

In a Feb. 5 review of the new movie, “Identity Thief,” critic Rex Reed refers to actress Melissa McCarthy as “tractor-sized” and goes on to use such terms as “humongous” and “hippo” to describe the character she plays.

Reed has been roundly criticized for his ungraceful comments, and many have come to McCarthy’s defense, citing her comedic talent as being more important than her appearance. Yet it’s widely acknowledged that actresses, models and women in other professions feel pressured to be slender to the point that many resort to dangerous diets, drugs and surgical procedures. The average American woman is a size 12; in Hollywood, a size 6 is considered chubby. Read more »


A grassroots counterattack on the obesity industry

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Most children face obstacles enough in life. Obesity – a preventable problem – shouldn’t be among them.

The Pierce County Health Department, YMCA, MultiCare and other community organizations deserve credit for their attack on childhood obesity, an epidemic of epic proportions in the United States.

Obesity isn’t merely being overweight; it’s being so overweight that grave problems are likely to arise from it – including heart disease, diabetes and, not least, bullying from classmates.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the rate of obesity among 6- to 11-year-olds rose from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. Among 12- to 19-year-olds, the rate went from 5 percent to 18 percent. There’s no reason to think kids have gotten skinnier in the last four years.

Two factors are driving the trend: Eating junk and staring at screens. Fast food, snacks and sugary drinks pump the calories into them. The calories get packed away as fat when children spend hours a day parked in front of video games, television and computers.

Blame adults for most of this. They control what young children eat and how much time they spend gaping at pixels. In Washington, according to the CDC, roughly a third of all children aged 6 to 17 have televisions in their bedrooms. More than half of all high schools and middle schools provide ready access to high-calorie drinks and snacks during school hours.

A lot of these kids simply have the deck stacked against them.

But don’t underestimate the counter-attack. In the South Sound, a small host of organizations has been pushing back, often in close coordination.
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Put down that sugary drink – or put on the pounds

Studies have linked sugary drinks to obesity. (The Associated Press)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The nation’s obesity rate has nearly tripled in the last 40 years, and scientists say new research has solidly pinpointed the No. 1 culprit.

It’s all those liquid sugar bombs Americans have been consuming – soda pop, sports drinks, juices, blended coffees and other sweetened drinks – most of which have little or no nutritional value.

During the last four decades, we’ve doubled our caloric intake of beverages sweetened with sugar and high-fructose corn syrup – but we haven’t been cutting back calories at mealtime. If anything, we’ve been supersizing our meals.

That net caloric gain is why more than a third of American adults are considered obese. And it’s why you can put school photos of today’s kids next to ones from 40 years ago and see a glaring difference in the number of overweight children. Doctors are seeing such an alarming increase in the number of young people with Type 2 diabetes – a condition directly linked to weight – that it can hardly be called adult-onset diabetes anymore. Read more »


Food stamps: No SNAP for buying sugary soda pop

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Should “nutrition assistance” money – food stamps – be used to buy items that have no nutritional value whatsoever and often make people sick?

We’re talking chips, cookies, sugary sodas and other junk food associated with Americans’ disturbingly high rates of obesity, diabetes and other conditions that help kill people and drive health costs higher.

Those conditions are more prevalent among the low-income – and they’re the ones who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That program (formerly called food stamps) provides funding assistance through cards that look like regular credit cards.

Increasingly, health experts and some lawmakers are saying that SNAP money should have some strings attached – like no junk food. Read more »