Apparently, there is little or no argument that poverty, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS, incarceration of black males, mis-education, and other debilitating factors disproportionately affect African Americans.
Overlooked, ignored and seemingly suppressed, however, is the ever-escalating prevalence of obesity, particularly among black women and, increasingly, among their offspring.
Herein lies a crucial determinant of a people’s future, and the silence surrounding black obesity is deafening. Who’s saying what to whom, when and where?
This is not a secret, folks; it is a problem of near epidemic proportion: Obesity debilitates, and it is a killer. Eighty percent of black women over 40 are overweight, and half are obese.
According to a 20-year study (1979-99) conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Obese persons have a reduced life expectancy, and they suffer disproportionally from a number of diseases and disabilities.”
Obese people die early from diseases of the heart, kidneys and arteries. They also are prone to mental-health issues, including neuroses and psychoses.
Generational transmission of obesity from mother to child through early feeding patterns tends to be the norm. Children do not create the environment in which they live. The CDC found through hospital discharge records that overweight children are “increasingly diagnosed with type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes, gall bladder disease and sleep apnea [stop breathing temporarily].”
In the nation’s capital, Washington, D. C., called “Chocolate City” because of its overwhelming number of black residents, the percentage of overweight children is worse than anywhere else. According to the June 23, 2008 issue of Time magazine, 40 percent of Washington’s children are overweight.
Early on, black kids everywhere in America are hooked on Kool-Aid, sodas, sugar-coated cereals, chips and fast-food joints. They are constantly told to sit down, be quiet, look at TV, stay out of the way, don’t bother me, and play with your toys or video games.
So, not only are too many of our youth sedentary, they are also stunted talents, undeveloped and/or underdeveloped. Poor and near-poor kids especially also traverse deep psychological terrain. For too many, obesity becomes a sort of sanctuary.
We’ve heard nothing during the heated health-care debates about the overall rising obesity among all American youth and, sans prevention, how this developing tsunami will soon overburden the U. S. health-care system. It stands to reason that since black people are most at risk, as a group their political, moral and health-care leaders should be out front, challenging, organizing, being heard and read.
While President Barack H. Obama got some 90 percent of the black vote during the 2008 general election, and blacks from all across America spent untold sums of money to be at his inauguration, braving freezing weather to witness that history, they have yet to act on the president’s bidding. Obama said repeatedly to go out and organize for the power of the people. He said that “organizing is from the bottom up, not the top down.”
Federal statistics indicate that 16 percent of American children/adolescents are overweight – the highest rates are among African Americans and Mexican Americans. In 2007, ten of the highest rates of overweight children were in the South. Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are in the South.
In 1991, no state in the U. S. exceeded 20 percent of obese adults. By 2007, the rates of adult obesity exceeded 25 percent in 19 states! (Adult obesity rates actually rose in 31 states that year.)
Do you think, maybe, that your congressperson and senator are familiar with some economic impacts of obesity?
For instance: It is estimated that obesity’s annual cost in the U. S. is $122.9 billion. That breaks down to direct costs in health care — $64.1 billion — and $58.8 billion in indirect costs, the value of wages lost due to illness/disability, and what is called “the value of future earnings lost by premature death.”