Ethical Issues Paper: Obesity in America Introduction Within our nation, one of the many growing health problems is the increasing amount children that are considered to be obese. Due to poor nutrition, food issues, and lack of physical activity; America has seen a dramatic increase in obesity. Obesity is a worldwide problem and threatens our nation’s social, economic, and physical health. Obesity will also continue to be a major problem facing America. It will continue to drag our economy down through various factors such as lower productivity and rising health costs unless we make a change.
Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to an individual’s health (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Overweight and obesity are interrelated and include a risk of factors for chronic diseases. Some factors include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Recommended weight standards are based on body mass index (BMI), which is a calculation of weight relative to height. The obesity index states that any individual at an index of 30 or more is considered to be obese.
The obesity epidemic affects a wide range of adults and children, which are faced with environmental factors that contribute to the overall obesity epidemic in America. More than one third of U. S. adults are obese. But obesity also affects children; approximately 17% (or 12. 5 million) children are obese. Adults often times work for long hours in front of computers or in sedentary positions, and Children are also sedentary whether it is in school, in front of the television, or playing a game.
Across America, it is clear that people are getting heavier. But the important aspect is that it doesn’t affect all communities equally. Some influencing factors are that physical education is influenced by the state, and is not mandatory for most states. Also, obesity affects some groups more than others. According to the CDC, non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity (49. 5%). Another important factor is the consumption of fatty foods. The amount of fatty foods is increasing to alarming rates.
Fast food burgers are cheaper than vegetables (and more convenient) and the consumption of food in schools is lacking dietary guidelines. Children often times are consuming too much sugar from carbonated beverages but are unaware that juice may have just about the same amount of sugar. Let’s move America stated that children thirty years ago ate only one snack a day, whereas today they’re trending towards three snacks which is an additional 200 calories a day. Also portion sizes are now two to five times bigger than they were in years past and the average sugar sweetened beverage was 13. ounces (1970) compared to todays 20 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages at a time. According to the CDC approximately 72. 5 million American adults are obese, making America the highest obesity rate in the world. In addition, this number is actually estimated to be lower than the actual rates because statistics are only based upon self-reported height involving BMI. Due to the high rates of obesity, annual medical costs in the U. S. are as high as $147 billion; on average obese people have medical costs that are $1429 more than medical costs of normal weight people.
In addition to dragging down our economy through various factors such as lower productivity and rising health costs, we also face the impact on health systems and medical costs which have both direct and indirect costs. Direct medical costs include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services, while indirect costs relate to the loss of income (from decreased productivity), restricted activity, absenteeism, and the income lost from premature death. Ethical Issues The rights approach can be met by individuals. Every person has the right to make his or her own decisions.
There will always be others who may suggest a way of life one should live, but it is up to that individual to decide which choices he or she makes. Parents have the right to feed whatever they want to their kids, fast food and restaurants have the right to produce any type of food, whether it be healthy or unhealthy, and serve it. If people were exposed to the negative impacts of being obese, I feel that people will become more inclined to make healthier lifestyle choices by eating healthier foods and to live healthier lifestyles.
I felt that the common good approach should be to stress the importance of how incorporating a mandatory physical education program within primary, middle, and high school. In addition to incorporating physical education in schools, our communities could promote healthy extra-curricular activities and help create safe parks and play areas for young children. If everyone in our community does their part to live healthy lifestyles and promote physical fitness and nutrition, then we can possibly face and suppress the ongoing obesity epidemic.
Stakeholders Within the obesity epidemic there are many stakeholders such as the individual citizens, America as a whole and the world as a whole. Individual citizens facing obesity face the risk of factors such chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Individual citizens who are obese also face social problems, higher medical costs, and even premature death. Within the individual citizens’ category, I feel it may be further broken down into various sub stakeholder categories.
The individual citizens may be further broken down into sub groups such as families and employees. Within families, the moral upbringings are passed upon one generation to the next. Everything can be taken into account, such as the food one eats to the choice of leisure activities; which may be watching television, going for a walk, or participating in sports. Another problem is that there has been talk of recent studies that individuals may become influenced by those he or she is close to. In a recent Harvard research study individuals weight atterns were influenced by friends or family (Blue, 2007). So if one person in a family becomes obese, there is a higher correlation that the other family members may follow in similar patterns. Another sub group is employees. When people are working on the job, an overweight/obese person may require higher medical costs which may affect the employer or company; given the fact they receive insurance. But in addition to paying higher medical costs, obesity may affect the rate of productivity of an individual.
By lumping all of the sub stakeholder categories, America will face the negative effects of negative economic activity through various factors such as lower productivity and rising health costs and Direct medical costs include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services, while indirect costs relate to the loss of income (from decreased productivity), restricted activity, absenteeism, and the income lost from premature death. The world faces negative effects of obesity due from obesity from the various countries.
If more countries face obesity then all the negative effects that affect America will carry over and affect the world on a global scale. Various factors such as lower productivity and rising health costs are just some of the many factors. If the world as a whole faces a percentage increase in the amount of people considered obese, then the overall price of living will increase and result on a chain effect of negativity that not only affects the person, but their community, their country, and the world. Opposing Stakeholders
Two stakeholder groups that may have opposing positions on obesity might be people in the fast food industry business and schools. I believe that the fast food industry would be considered to be an opposing stakeholder towards obesity because if there were harsh health regulations towards fast food, or to change the food (to become more healthy), or to increase prices (so that fresh, organic, healthy food would be cheaper), the fast food industry would be hurt financially. Fast food industries may be faced with fewer customers due to the change of taste and cost.
Another problem would be that due to the poor inflow of customers, fast food chains may be forced to close which would result in people losing their jobs. Another opposing stakeholder may be schools. The school as a whole is certainly not an opposing stakeholder, but I personally believe that the financial office which budgets money would be considered an opposing stakeholder. I feel that when it comes to money, schools may be hurt because if health regulations were passed that enforce schools to provide healthy food.
From an economic viewpoint, buying mass produced (usually unhealthy food) is typically cheaper than buying fresh organic (healthy) food. If schools were forced to spend more money on food costs it may limit the money from going to other areas such as school improvements, teacher salaries, etc. My Position I feel that obesity is an ongoing epidemic that not only faces America, but the world as a whole. The stakeholders group that I most closely identify with would be the individual citizens.
I myself have never been considered obese, but I have been overweight and had to face the hardships to change myself and to embrace a healthy living style. I know that being obese would cause many social problems. In school you often times see people excluded from clicks because of weight and size. But I feel that by having a combination of intense physical activity, a healthy diet, and strong moral support one can easily face the hardships of obesity. I also feel that we must do something soon regarding obesity, especially for children.
But on a larger scale I can relate to the world as a whole. Everything is correlated within economics and if one country faces an increase in poor economic factors the rest of the world will slowly feel the side effects. If we are unable to suppress or decrease the amount of obesity within children, the negative effects of obesity will simply continue. Our children are the future and if nothing is done now, I feel that the next generation will continue to see a rise of obesity and face stronger negative effects within society.
Obesity cannot be won solely by government programs or fad diets. Everyone must take action and by the collaborative efforts of individuals, organizations, businesses, and governments we can make a difference. Solution If fast-food regulations were set at healthier standard it may reduce the amount of trans-fats, calories, and fatty oils one consumes while eating fast-food. Since fast-food has become convenient and is often times cheaper than healthier food alternatives, it only makes sense to make fast-food healthier.
But due to the rights approach, restaurants and fast food industries have the right to sell produce whatever they want, regardless of how healthy or unhealthy. So a possible solution would be to promote obesity awareness. One possible action is to promote obesity awareness in elementary schools like fire safety. If children are ingrained with the knowledge of how to live a healthy life, they may continue to keep up with healthier lifestyles and may pass along the knowledge to their kids in the future.
I feel another solution may be implementing a required physical education class for children between grades K-12 and harder food regulations regarding the amount of trans-fats, calories, and fatty oils for fast food joints within schools. By increasing the amount of physical activity within children, it will help promote a healthy lifestyle and possibly reduce obesity. By encouraging students to partake in physical activities within school, it could spark an interest or hobby for sports.
Also, by requiring physical education classes, it helps offset the amount of time children are immobile in front of the television or while sitting in school. As for adults, large corporations could offer healthy snacks rather than vending machines and install a gym or give discounted membership to local community gyms to promote healthier lifestyles. By taking these measures, it will help individuals better themselves and benefit the common good of the community and America as a whole. Evaluation The Utilitarian Approach
The option that will produce the most good and do the least harm is to provide an in depth insight and knowledge of eating a healthy diet. By eating a healthy diet, this can improve a person’s overall health, and by adding exercise, one may maintain and possess a prolonged healthy life. I feel that the knowledge transfer provides the most good because everyone can implement it and it does the least harm because it’s simply knowledge, it’s up to the individual to put it into action. The Rights Approach
I feel that the option that best respects the rights of all of those who have a stake would be to keep a healthy diet in mind and to stay diligent towards your diet rather than to protest against the fast food industry. By simply making the right decision, you can peacefully co-exist with unhealthy fast food restaurants. As long as you know it’s unhealthy and you don’t eat there frequently, you can stay healthy (by sticking to your healthy diet) and keep the fast food businesses open. The Justice Approach
An option that treats people equally or proportionately would be to have all schools to provide the same knowledge of healthy living programs as well as physical fitness program to all schools nationwide. This way everyone is provided the same fundamentals needed to live a healthy lifestyle and are equipped with the same physical activity. The Common Good Approach My action from the common good approach best serves the community as a whole by incorporating healthy lifestyles in both children and adults.
It will benefit children by promoting awareness and giving children time to partake in physical activity. By being aware and active it helps reduce the chance of obesity and will serve the community as a whole by having children share with their parents what they’re doing and could help promote healthy out of school activities. Also by incorporating healthier food choices for large corporations or by having a gym or discount membership program, adults will be more inclined to partake in physical activity. By having both children and adults partake in physical activity, it helps fight the obesity pidemic, and hopefully with a healthy diet we as a community may reduce the amount of obesity and prevent an increase in obesity within our community and America as a whole. The Virtue Approach The option that leads me to act as the sort of person I want to be would be to eat healthy and partake in physical fitness. It fits accordingly to the virtue approach because it demonstrates an act of self-control (from dieting and eating healthy) diligence (when it comes to sticking to your healthy diet and physical fitness routine). By partaking in both ideas, an individual is acting to their best and maximizing their potential in obtaining full development.
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