How can you help consumers consume less—and fight obesity?

Weight problems and the accompanying health issues are on the rise in the U.S. Here’s how communicators are spreading the word about the dangers of bad dietary habits.

French fries are becoming a major food group—and that’s not good.

Obesity is an ever-worsening epidemic, straining resources for health care professionals worldwide—and challenging communicators trying to offer guidance.

Health organizations and their communications teams are pursuing multiple strategies as they endeavor to educate the public—and reverse entrenched dietary habits.

They’re using reports, videos, statistics and infographics to spell out the issues and help save lives. Here’s how they’re spreading the news:

Sharing the stats

This report by Renew Bariatrics, a provider of weight-loss surgery, suggests that some 775 million people worldwide are obese. The United States is No. 1 in obesity, with more than 73 million obese adults—33.7 percent of the population.

Explaining the issue

Looking for facts to share with the community? Rush University Medical Center spells out the basics in this post , including a clear definition of what “obesity” really means:

Being obese means having a body mass index—or BMI—of 30 or more. Your BMI is a number based on the ratio of your height and weight:

  • Underweight: BMI under 18.5
  • Normal: BMI between 18.5 and 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI between 25 and 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or more
  • Morbidly obese: BMI of 40 or more

The post includes a link to a site that lets consumers calculate their BMI.

Important fact: “If you are overweight or your BMI is in the obese range, it doesn’t mean you are not healthy. It does mean you are at higher risk of developing one or more serious health problems.”

Highlighting the economic costs

A video from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that obesity costs the U.S. about $150 billion a year in medical costs. The video brings together experts on the causes of obesity—and some possible remedies on both a personal and community basis. The experts caution, though, that there’s no simple answer to the problem. Still, government support and workplace wellness programs can play a large role.

Looking toward the future

Similarly, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health takes a long look at the economic costs associated with obesity with this post. The report notes that researchers estimate that if obesity trends continue unchecked, by 2030 obesity-related medical costs in the U.S. could rise by $48 billion to $66 billion a year.

Targeting prevention in kids

Sharing the facts about obesity to consumers is one thing. Outlining ideas for prevention, especially in children, is something else. As the Renew Bariatrics study cited above relates, there are an estimated 124 million obese children and adolescents in the world.

This infographic from the American Heart Association spells out some key facts:

  • One in three children ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.
  • French fries make up 25 percent of kids’ vegetable intake.
  • Children who are overweight from ages 7 to 13 are more likely to develop heart disease by age 25.

Messages like these can help spread the word, save lives and ease the challenges that health care providers face.

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