Obesity has become a North American epidemic that is closely associated with the stereotypical overindulgence of western culture. Unfortunately, the prevalence of obesity is on the rise. In fact, currently, more that half of Canadian adults are obese or overweight (more than 5 million Canadians are obese and an additional 8 million Canadians are overweight, respectively). The number of obese adults in Canada almost tripled between 1985 and 2001. The prevalence of childhood obesity in Canada is just as alarming. In 1979 the overweight/obesity rate was 15% among children and adolescents aged 2 to 17 years old.
There have been similar effects occurring worldwide, as there are thought to be more than 1 billion overweight adults and more than 300 million of those are thought to be obese (WHO, 2008, par. 2). Yet in North American specifically, there is a number of socioeconomic factors, such as high cost of healthy food and conforming to normative values that contribute to obesity in a culture that is preoccupied with the production of fast, economical and poorly-prepared food.
[...] More simply, it remains unclear as to whether the plentiful existence of cheap fast-food restaurants contribute to obesity rates or whether the greater number of obese individuals in North American is generating a demand for the production of more restaurants. That is to say, are the McDonald's restaurants that appear on every street corner the problem, or are the generally obese clientele creating a demand for the production of more establishments? Thus we return to the question of the chicken or the egg, as research demonstrates that the number of fast food restaurants inversely correlates to the socioeconomic status of a particular area: spatial distribution of fast food restaurants and supermarkets that provide options for meeting recommended dietary intake differed according to racial distribution and poverty rates. [...]
[...] have one of the highest obesity incidences in the world. Surely sedentary lifestyles and cheap food play a role, but it is also quite likely that life on reservations, with low expectations for future mobility and high levels of depression/alcoholism also play a role (Graham par. 22). Although it is extremely difficult to isolate the influential effects of normative or expected values in comparison to the prevalence and availability of cheap foods and sedentary lifestyles, it seems that the cultural attitude towards obesity dramatically affects its prevalence among certain social groups. [...]
[...] While it would seem logical to assume that the social groups with the most disposable income would be predisposed to consuming more food and therefore eventually becoming the most obese social group, researchers have been unable to create a definitive link between any variables and their expected associations. In any case, there are a number of socioeconomic factors that have contributed to the rising obesity rates in North America, as it would seem to be as much a function of normative values as it is dependent on the availability of cheap, unhealthy food. References Baker, Schootman, M., Barnidge, E. (2006) The Role of Race and Poverty in Access to Foods That Enable Individuals to Adhere to Dietary Guidelines. Preventing Chronic Disease. A76. [...]
[...] The frozen meal can be mass produced and has an extensive shelf-life afforded by the inclusion of chemical preservatives. In contrast, a bag of organic apples has been produced without the aid of chemical fertilizers and also has a much shorter shelf-life. As such, the bag of organic apples will be more expensive simply because it costs more to produce, and this high price discourages consumers from purchasing this product. Thus the additional expense of healthier foods helps to explain the rising obesity rates in social groups that feature a lower socioeconomic websites. [...]
[...] Galson cites a greater need for parental involvement in order to reduce the childhood obesity rates in North America. However, what is missing from Galson's study is the lack of consideration that single-parent families rely on only one source of income and therefore, might not be financially stable enough to be able to afford healthy and fresh meat, fish, fruit and vegetables. For that reason, even if the parent was to get more involved to stop the child from playing video games, he or she might still not be able to bring fresh, more expensive and nutritious, food to the table. [...]
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