IT ISN’T A secret that obesity can lead to a host of life-threatening conditions, including type-2 diabetes. It’s also no secret that diabetes comes with its own serious implications for health. But these facts are often taken for granted. We read and hear about the “obesity problem” and “the diabetes epidemic” so often that many of us have become apathetic.
I was interested to read about a professor at Dublin City University in Ireland called Niall Moyna, who has said that every Irish child should be taught about health and fitness from the age of four. According to Professor Moyna, there is a “huge problem with health literacy” in Ireland and people have become desensitized to terms like “obesity” and “diabetes”. “We throw around the term diabetes like confetti now,” he said. “Kids don’t understand that it’s going to end up in blindness, limb amputations and premature death.”
Health literacy is one of the biggest problems in America. Everyone knows the words but not enough people know what those words mean or what they imply. If people were healthy, then it wouldn’t be so much of problem. But we are in the middle of a health crisis. Around the world, paradoxically coexisting with malnutrition, is an escalating global obesity epidemic. It affects almost all age and socioeconomic groups and is threatening to engulf even the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world. In 1995 there were around 200 million obese adults worldwide. In 2000, there were more than 300 million.
And in America, our failure to take responsibility of our health is costing the country hundreds of billons of dollars and ruining millions of lives. It’s even affecting military recruitment: 70% of today’s youth are not fit to serve in the military due in a large part to obesity, according to a recent study. There’s no doubt that we have a self-discipline problem and a cultural problem, but it is our health literacy problem that can be solved quickly and, if solved, will have the greatest impact.
If young people were made aware of the fate that awaits them if they make poor lifestyle choices and don’t allow themselves to become addicted to foods that are killing them, then we can reverse this trend. That means reminding people of some uncomfortable and forgotten truths about the dangers of obesity and diabetes.