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Should healthy behaviors be part of employment expectations?

By Elena Watts
June 29, 2014 at 1:29 a.m.

Jason Brown, 35, of Victoria, concentrates as he works out at Gold's Gym Express. Brown recently completed the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown, losing 80 pounds since January.

Obesity Facts

• Estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008, with medical costs for the obese $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

• Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.

• Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity at 47.8 percent, followed by Hispanics at 42.5 percent, non-Hispanic whites at 32.6 percent and non-Hispanic Asians at 10.8 percent.

• Obesity is higher among middle-aged adults, 40 to 59 years old (39.5 percent), than among younger adults, age 20 to 39 (30.3 percent), or adults 60 years old and older (35.4 percent).

• Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with low incomes.

• Higher income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.

• There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend: Those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women.

• By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.5 percent in Colorado to 34.7 percent in Louisiana in 2012. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent.

• Higher prevalence of adult obesity was found in the Midwest (29.5 percent) and the South (29.4 percent). Lower prevalence was observed in the Northeast (25.4 percent) and the West (25.1 percent).

• Prevalence of obesity in Texas was 29.2 percent in 2012, down from 31 percent in 2010.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Texas Overweight and Obesity Statistics

• In 2009, nearly 66.8 percent of Texas adults were either overweight or obese.

• If Texas were to invest $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition and prevent smoking and tobacco use, the state could save $1 billion annually within five years through reductions in health care spending - a return of $4.70 for every $1.20.

• If the current trends continue, 20 million, or 75 percent, of Texas adults might be overweight or obese by the year 2040, and the cost to Texas could quadruple from $10.5 billion today to as much as $39 billion by 2040.

• In 2009, 15.6 percent of Texas high school students were reported to be overweight, and 13.6 percent were obese.

Source: DSHS Obesity Data Sheet May 2010

"Why are we still fat?" John Peters asked at a recent Obesity Issues Program in Aurora, Colo., which was sponsored by the National Press Foundation.

For the first time in human history, the number of people on the planet who are overweight or obese equals the number who are undernourished, said Peters, a professor and chief strategy officer for the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado.

"This is not a new epidemic," Peters said. "It's been around for 30 years."

Scientists have determined many causes that lead to an overweight and obese population, and they have also provided many solutions to curb the epidemic. However, people have continued to either grow or remain fat.

Based on decades of research, Peters believes people do not have good enough reasons not to be fat. He offered an alignment of individual and collective purposes as a way to curb the obesity epidemic.

Survival for a healthy society is about economic health, jobs, global competitiveness and education, all of which provide the means by which people have healthy, productive lives, he said.

Peters posed this question: "Should healthy behaviors be part of employment expectations?"

The leader in nutrition research elaborates about his response to this question, and Crossroads residents and a professor at the University of Texas offer their reactions, as well.

Pro: Businesses should require healthy activity at work

Con: Improved health should be workplace option, not requirement



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