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Policy makers have a role to play in fighting obesity in adults and children because the epidemic is because of economical and technological consequences. The overweight persons need change in behaviour in order to lose weight. A majority of Americans has grown out of the normal BMI (Body Mass Index) range. We make the wrong choices concerning the food intake, work and exercise because we do not have foresight and the perfect information. Statistics show that a high number of obese people have low incomes. In addition, obese people are ten times more likely to work in low- paying jobs compared to people with normal weight.
Obesity increases the reliance on drugs and has a negative effect on people’s health. This places a financial strain on medical programs, which in turn, increase the taxes and affect the economy. The government has a role to play in fighting the obesity epidemic. It has put in place various laws and regulations that govern physical activities and food consumption. This is in respect to the fact that the food people consume, and the level of physical activity affects the rate of obesity. Several market failures exist in economics. The role of policy makers in the fight against the obesity epidemic may not be to solve the below market failures, but to revisit past laws to decide whether they are efficient.
The first market failure is externalities that refer to third party effects (transaction spillover) which arise from production/ consumption of goods and services with no expected compensation. Market power refers to the ability of a firm or company to alter the price of a good or service beyond its competitive level (Also referred to as monopoly). The other market failure is public goods. This refers to goods that are available for anyone to consume regardless of the person who pays for them, for example, public parks. Lastly, we have imperfect information (also called information asymmetry) as a market failure aspect. This refers to a situation in transactions where one party is more informed than the other does.
There is a solution for weighing the public policy issues for adults. This can be done through a publicly funded anti- obesity intervention for adults on the grounds of irrationality, equity and other compelling public needs. Through equity, people consume foods that fall short of the recommendations given by the government. The rich too do not take healthy foods. The government may intervene due to the prevalence cases of obesity. Irrationality refers to the fact that overweight people could be unknowing victims of a profit- driven environment. Food industry does not allow people to make rational decisions on food consumption.
A compelling public needs can be used by the government in the fight against obesity. Government may lead to less obese people by encouraging and compelling them to make choices they would prefer not to make. Some public goods such as recreation facilities, public parks increase the level of physical activity significantly. In addition, media campaigns, which educate the public on dangers of obesity, can be used to curb the epidemic. Re-visiting past policies can also be used to control obesity. This includes policies on agricultural produce, food produce, wading through the Medicare morass and the built environment (Clifford, 2006).
The agricultural or farm bill includes access to nutrition programs, access to healthy foods, sustainable agriculture, rural development, conservation and research. Food stamps refer to programs meant to alleviate hunger and promote healthy nutrition among low-income people. Persons who qualify for Medicare program enjoy equal access. There are high premium charges on overweight/ obese people. The state of neighbourhoods is also a crucial aspect that should be considered. There are areas considered unworkable because they do not have sidewalks. This increases the chances of obesity in communities.
There are certain policy issues that should be considered for children. Parents should have an oversight in children’s eating habits. There should be healthy foods and vending machines in the school cafeteria. There should be an inclusion of fresh produce in the menu for the students. Physical education and food marketing to children should be part of their daily activities. Report cards for Body Mass Index should be issued for every child (Clifford, 2006).
Schools have always been obesity promoting areas since the foods served there have a higher profit margin than healthier foods. Food service employees should negotiate to have the best prices and timely provision of fresh produce before they get spoilt. School administrators should not focus on just making profits; they should also focus on giving the children a healthy diet. Preparation time for fresh foods is always greater than the time needed for stock-processed foods. Food service employees are usually extremely few. By relying on packaged foods, the employees are able to meet time and volume demands. In addition, children do little physical activities and exercises. They spend most of time doing things that utilize little of their energy. These activities include watching television.
Given proper nutrition education, these children will make informed choices on diet and physical activities. They will be able to make decisions with parental and government oversight. They will have adequate resources to engage in physical activity and healthy eating habits. The children will face the future with informed long- sighted decisions, which will help, in fighting the obesity epidemic in this country, now and in the future.
Obesity and its associated health problems have a significant economic impact on health care programs of a country. The medical costs associated with obesity may be either direct or indirect costs. Direct costs may include preventive costs, diagnostic and treatment services associated with obesity. Other costs incurred may include production costs, human resources and transportation costs. Medical costs related to overweight occur not only in adult populations but also in children. The government/ policy makers should fight hard against obesity.