Essay: Lifespan Development Issue

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Lifespan Development Issue

Despite the fact that scientists and social scientists saw this trend arising at least a decade ago, the Western world is now plagued with a growing problem of obesity in children and youth that continues into adulthood. The Center for Disease Control's website includes data from surveys showing that the prevalence of obesity has increased prevalence increased from 5 to 12% for children 2 to 10, over 6% to 17% for age 6 -- 11, and 5 to over 17% for those aged 12 -- 19 years. Obesity in these children and youth increase the risk of health problems in their current lives and as adults, such as cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes. As with other health indicators, obesity is related to socioeconomic and educational level: 31% of non-Hispanic whites aged 20 and older were obese in 2003-2004 in comparison to 37% of Hispanics and 45% of non-Hispanic blacks; 26% of high school dropouts were obese in 2000, versus 22% of graduates and 15% of college grads; and 23% of white women with family incomes greater than 400% of the poverty line were obese in 1999-2002, compared to 40% of their poor counterparts, and similar statistics exist for men (Zang & Wang, 2004). The response to this "growth" in obesity is ranging from a "fat tax," to anti-obesity drugs, and to educational programs. The problem is very complex and not one approach will be effective; regardless, however, education of those at greatest risk needs to be addressed.

Increasing numbers of states are now either considering imposing "fat taxes" on certain foods and beverages or have already put them into effect. As with any of these increased-tax approaches, such as cigarettes, controversy exists on the overall impact on health, if not on the state's pockets. In an article in the Oregon Law Review, Winstanley (2007) explains the two perspectives for reducing obesity: 1) the "fault-based paradigm," where the person is responsible for the condition and health habits and 2) the "public health perspective," which views obesity as a disease caused by a number of different socioeconomic and environmental factors. The major problem with fat-tax models that are explained in relationship to lifestyle preferences, is that they basically concerned with offsetting the short-term economic costs of obesity rather than developing preventative solutions for the long-term. Winstanley thus recommends a "healthy fat tax credit," or a fully refundable tax credit for money spent on healthy foods. Such tax credits, he argues, have been the most successful tool when the aim of the policy is to reach low-income households. From an economic standpoint, forecasts are forecasting obesity rates to increase to 40% for men and 43% for women by 2020, diabetes medical costs to reach $1 trillion by 2025, and an increasing incidence of obesity among low-income and minority populations. Plus the costs are minimal compared to Food Stamps. Despite the fact that the tax code's role in assisting the poor or near-poor has grown considerably over the past decades, tax expenditures still overwhelmingly favor the wealthy and reduce the overall progressivity of the income tax system. Because this credit would be tied to purchases on certain healthy foods, it… [END OF PREVIEW]

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