Research Paper On Obesity On Low Income Communities - English 101 - Research Paper

1382 words - 6 pages

Lazcano 2
Lazcano 1
Professor Clem
English 101.603
6 November 2018
Obesity and Poverty
In America today, there is probably no public health issue that gets greater attention than obesity. The American “Obesity Epidemic” and how to address it has been the top story of nearly every American publication at some point or another in the past few years. Americans engage in fierce debate over how to address it, and physicians across the country are trying to find ways to combat the health problems obesity causes. The question is: Why isn’t it working? Why is obesity still on the rise? What is the true main cause? Many experts today think that we need a change of focus. Let us look at the possibility that we are addressing the wrong causes, and then we can address obesity at its roots. That problem is poverty and the fact that many low-income people don’t have access to the proper foods and nutrition, causing the epidemic of obesity in these communities.
For an adult, obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) that is greater than thirty. A BMI is a person’s height divided by their weight, then squared. For a person to be considered at a healthy or average weight, they must have a BMI between 19 and 25 for adult women and 20 to 25 for adult men. “An adult with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; a person with a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese (Valburn 1). A person is considered morbidly obese anywhere above 40. For children and adolescents, weight status is determined by comparing the child's height and weight with the standard for their age group. A child is considered obese if they are above the 95th percentile for their age group.
Obesity most often has an inverse effect on nutrition. Commonly, people believe that if a person is obese, they must be well-nourished. However, this is just not the case. There are two different types of malnutrition: macro malnutrition and micro malnutrition. Macro malnutrition is a result of a person simply not having enough food to keep their body healthy. Micro malnutrition is caused by a person not getting enough nutrients; often, the person is consuming enough or even more than enough overall food, but they are not eating foods with any nutritional value. The majority of the foods and drinks they consume are “empty calories”, like soda pop or potato chips, with no nutrients. “Adults with very low food security drink an average of nearly two cans of soda a day (Price 561). The micro malnutrition associated with obesity poses a major risk to a person's health, especially children. Children who are obese also have a much higher chance of becoming obese adults.
Though obesity has hit every single group of the United States population, the American family who struggles the greatest with obesity in the United States has several defining characteristics. The family has a single female parent between the age of 18 and 25. They are considered to be “low-income’ and qualify for welfare. This average family either lives in a government low-income housing unit or they live in an urban low-income area.
Income is probably the fastest growing factor connected with obesity. Income links poverty to obesity in many ways. In the United States, food is generally inexpensive. The struggle of the working poor comes from the rise in the cost of other necessities. Food is cheap and it is possible to prepare inexpensive healthy meals. However, people in poverty have to work long hours to make ends meet. They often do not have the time to prepare healthy meals, nor do they have the education about what a healthy meal is. Also, low-income neighborhoods frequently lack full-service grocery stores “because of the assumption that low-income areas are generally less profitable and that there are higher rates of crime leading to more additional costs” (Brundage-Moore 2). Therefore, it is not true that these low-income families do not want to make healthy meals; it is the fact that they more often than not do not have access to healthy food.
Child and parent relationships link poverty to obesity. First, when a family has very little money, food is one of the few indulgences they can afford. Parents often feel guilty that they have little or no money for treats and presents to offer their children, so going to McDonald's is one of very few options. This is often addictive. The average fast food or restaurant meal has many more calories than the average home meal, and its paradox is that it often leaves you much less full.
Another connection between poverty and obesity is environment and exercise. The environment in which a family lives affects their obesity on two levels: in the home and in the neighborhood. If a child grows up in an environment at home where unhealthy food choices and eating habits are modeled to them, those food types will be associated with comfort and family. This can cause bad eating habits to develop for the rest of the child's life, leading to lifelong obesity and health risks. On the neighborhood level, there are often many more fast food chains in low-income neighborhoods, making them an even more appealing choice for poor families because of the close proximity. “For example, there are half a million people living in Chicago where the nearest grocery store is twice as far away as the closest fast food restaurant” (Smith 1). This is because of food deserts, which are “areas where fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthy whole foods are inaccessible, often due to lack of grocery stores within walking distance” (Smith 1). Also, exercise ties into the environment of a family. In low-income neighborhoods, especially government housing districts, the neighborhood is often too dangerous for children to go outside and play. This means they get little exercise and often boredom-eat. For the low-income family, television is often the main and cheapest available entertainment option for children. Television is an extremely sedentary activity and is associated with very low activity levels. For adults, working the long hours required to support their families often means that they have little or no time or energy left for "leisure exercise" or exercise on their own time. For all these reasons, eating becomes something the family associates with community, comfort, and relaxation-- meaning they often over-indulge.
Some people disagree with the thought that obesity is related to poverty. Many believe that being overweight is a choice, and that even in low income communities, “food deserts and swamps, healthy eating can be achieved by making informed decisions” (University Wire 1). But we already know this to be false. “Many poor people don't understand the components of a nutritious diet and don’t know how to shop efficiently” (Price 561). Not only that but as stated earlier, low-income communities do not always have access to well stocked grocery stores. So in order to receive proper nutrition, they must travel to be able to buy appropriate food items, and if an individual cannot get somewhere to buy fresh produce, it makes it impossible to provide a heathy balanced diet.
Although the United States is the nation with the largest economy, it has more poverty than most countries with similar living standards, and its programs to help those in need are not as advanced. “Still, more than a third of U.S. adults and nearly 17 percent of children are obese” (Valburn 1). The minimum wage is too low to feed a family a healthy diet. We need to provide the resources for everyone in the country to eat well. Government assisted programs can help make it easier and cheaper to buy healthy foods and help those who don’t have access to it. Good food is something everyone deserves.
Works Cited
Brundage-Moore, Asha. "Food Deserts, Hunger and Obesity." University Wire, May 03
2015, ProQuest. Web. 6 Nov. 2018.
"How Americans in 'Food Deserts' Or 'Food Swamps' can Still Fight Off Obesity." University
Wire, Mar 30 2018, ProQuest. Web. 6 Nov. 2018.
"Obesity." CQ Researcher, 15 June 2013,
Price, Tom. "Hunger in America." CQ Researcher, 7 July 2017, pp. 557-80,
Smith, David. "Community of Support Needed to Fight Obesity." Waterloo Region Record, Aug
21 2015, ProQuest. Web. 6 Nov. 2018.

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