Death, donations, and doing good

The ice bucket challenge was undoubtedly a media and fundraising success for the ALS Association. For many people this was an opportunity to “do good” and call out their friends on social media to do the same. Skepticism mounted as social media feeds were inundated with ice bucket participant videos.

Plenty Consulting looked at the data and found that daily donations to the ALS Association (ALSA) remained the same even as the number of ice bucket challenge participants grew exponentially. Donations to the ALS Association were 35% higher than last year, but were all the non-donating participants missed fundraising opportunities or simply “do good” imposters? Perhaps it is helping to foster a culture of giving?

Vox published a widely shared bubble chart (above) that demonstrated which diseases kill the most people compared to which diseases get the most donations. This chart is flawed in the sense that comparing one-time fundraisers, such as a Breast Cancer Walk, isn’t enough to capture which diseases get the most overall funding.

Others took a more statistical approach to their skepticism. One individual (redditor SirT6) chose to look at NIH funding and disability-adjusted life years (logarithmic) to compare some of the top diseases that get funding compared to their impact on lifespan.

I think both measures in the above chart are flawed in that NIH funding is a poor indicator of where the general public is donating and also it is nearly impossible to compare the suffering and impact of each individual disease through adjusted life years.

Instead I chose to identify the largest charity for each of the top 15 diseases that kill people in the US (excluding #5 unintentional accidents) based on the 2011 National Vital Statistics Report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). A few charities took on multiple diseases, such as the American Heart Association (AHA) working on heart disease (#1) and stroke (#4) or the American Lung Association (ALA) covering lower respiratory disease (#4), pneumonia (#8), and lung inflammation (#15). By searching the most recent IRS Form 990 from each charity I looked at their Total Revenue (fiscal year) as well as the percent of the Total Revenue that came from Contributions (fundraising, grants, etc.). I figured this gives the best indication of where both individuals and other foundations or nonprofits are giving their donations. I then compared each disease/ cause of death in its “per 100,000” prevalence rate.

disease-donors

The size of the bubble represents the percentage of total revenue that comes from donations. The big take away here is that some of the most deadly diseases are getting larger amounts of funding. However, there are a handful of diseases that definitely aren’t getting enough (i.e. Septicimia), but are three times as deadly as ALS. Lung diseases really aren’t getting a lot of donations, but seem to remain highly funded regardless. In my research for this I was surprised to find that HIV/AIDS per 100,000 rate is less than ALS at 2.5. In particular areas, such as Detroit, HIV/AIDS is a much larger problem, but it is good to see that advances in treatment and prevention have lowered the national rate.

The majority of charities depend on contributions and donations to fund their efforts, pay salaries, and cover expenses. It is difficult to say what percentage is used for prevention activities or for finding a cure, but very obviously not all diseases are funded equally. Likewise, not all diseases contribute to the deaths of people at the same rates. Does that mean some should get more funding over others?

Homicide, Gun Violence, and Epidemiology in Detroit

More about the above map HERE

The Detroit Police Department (DPD) has been making strides to improve their operations, including: cracking down on internal corruption, adopting data-driven crime tracking, and utilizing innovative approaches for crime prevention. When Chief James Craig was hired he brought back a data-driven model of policing that tracks where crimes happen, by whom, as well as where police patrols are deployed. This is an important step forward for the DPD to manage the large land area of Detroit while utilizing statistics to plan police asset allocations. Being aware of crime trends and locations is critical to understanding how best to improve safety in Detroit. Last year DPD and Crime Stoppers held a gun buy back event in Detroit and early this year it was reported that a Federal investigation by the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) collected a number of illegal guns after setting up a fake barbershop in Detroit. The ATF’s primary goal was to identify key “trigger pullers” in the community who are committing violent crimes.

“What we need to understand gun violence is a #publichealth approach.” – David Satcher #APHA13

— Prevention Institute (@preventioninst) November 4, 2013

These data-driven and community focused approaches are critical to making Detroit safer as well as utilizing police and community resources more effectively. Innovative and effective approaches to crime prevention are desperately needed in Detroit. A crime prevention approach rooted in public health is gaining traction in reducing homicides in other major US cities. The Cure Violence program uses a public health/ epidemiology approach to identify “trigger pullers” who contribute to the spread of homicide and crime in communities by sending violence “interrupters” who are former gang members into the streets to intervene. The Man Up! program in Brooklyn uses this same approach and saw 363 days without a shooting or killing this past year.

My own research shows that homicides in Detroit follow a disease diffusion pattern across the city. Emanating from two key hotspots while continuing and spreading from those areas throughout the year with over 80% of Detroit homicides committed by gun.

It was announced today that $1.6 million will be granted to fund, “36 AmeriCorps volunteers to analyze crime statistics and help neighborhood block clubs and other groups learn how to report crime, keep an eye on the neighborhoods and how to avoid becoming victims.” The Free Press article notes that the program has been in effect in Midtown and East Jefferson over the last three years and they have seen a 44% reduction in crime. Funding ($722,000) for the program comes from the Kresge Foundation, Skillman Foundation, Henry Ford Health System, Jefferson East Inc., and Detroit Medical Center. Does this signal Detroit taking on a public health approach to crime and violence? I sincerely hope DPD and funders push for more public health strategies for crime and homicide prevention.

If anything this is welcome news over involvement from the Manhattan Institute (proponent of increasing incarceration rates to reduce crime) and the expansion Stop-and-Frisk in Detroit. There can be only positives in getting residents and police officers to meet on common ground instead of police officers wantonly stopping and frisking innocent Detroit residents. Hopefully the involvement of Foundations, Health Systems, and community advocacy groups can continue to improve the DPD approach to crime prevention.

Detroit Infant Mortality Map 2009 – 2010

DETROITography

detinfantmortality

Infant mortality has been a persistent problem in Detroit that accompanies racial health disparities, low income, and environmental factors. This map compares infant mortality rates per 1000 to those of other countries around the world.

The Women Inspired Neighborhood Network (WINN), formerly Sew Up the Safety Net is a collaborative program with the major health systems in Detroit and has had incredible success in educating mothers and improving infant lives in a short time period.

See also: William Bunge’s infant mortality map 1969.

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Map: Obesity and Corner Stores in Detroit

DETROITography

DETobese_final

The data on enrolled public high school students maps almost exactly with population density, but there is enough of a difference to make it worthwhile to examine the interactions between social and environmental factors. Corner stores (liquor stores, gas stations) were added to demonstrate the prevalence of these food locations in relation to obesity among students, however there is no significant correlation.

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Slow Food, Social Mobility, and Whole Foods in Detroit

Anyone who follows news about Detroit hasn’t missed that Whole Foods is opening its Midtown location on June 5th. Young people are tweeting that they are already writing up their grocery lists, students are excited for the organic produce, and who out there can actually afford to shop exclusively at Whole Foods for their groceries!?

I know that I for one, cannot. It is exciting that Whole Foods is coming into Detroit when all of the chain supermarkets fled the city, but to the tune of huge tax breaks that the city could really use. It must also be noted that Whole Foods in Midtown does NOT address the scarcity or availability of healthy foods in Detroit. Rather Whole Foods taunts Detroit residents with the bright lights of an upscale chain food store, but no change to access in Detroit’s food system.

Classism in Slow Food 

“Slow Food Detroit” was founded in Clarkston, MI  –  51 Miles away from the city.

“Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is part of a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members in over 150 countries, which links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.” (SlowFoodUSA.org)

Slow food is inherently easier for those with higher incomes. Access to better foods, organic options, and what some might call “picky” food choices favors those with extra money to spend. In Detroit income is highly correlated with race. A major reason that Detroit has limited grocery stores and high rates of diet-related diseases among African Americans is due to the fact that historically African Americans were either not considered for grocery store hiring or were hired and kept away from management positions. When the riots hit and many people left the city, there was no one with the skills to fill the grocery store void. Likewise, the supermarkets followed wealthy white populations leaving for the suburbs.

The addition of Whole Foods represents a similar imbalance in the “slow food” movement where all items are local sourced, organic, etc. with a price tag to match. Personally, my wife and I only shop at Whole Foods for wine, dessert, and food items that help manage lactose intolerance. Other than that, we would never dream of doing the bulk of our grocery shopping there. If anything Whole Foods has come into Detroit to capture the commuter market in one easy spot before they drive home outside of the city.

The Detroit Drilldown Report 2010 reported on grocery leakage (people spending grocery dollars outside of the city), that Detroit resident spend $200 Million (31% of grocery budgets) outside the city on their groceries. People may start shopping inside the city limits at Whole Foods, but I predict that the majority will take it back home outside the city.

Social Mobility & Transportation

An important aspect of slow food and access to healthy food is unfortunately transportation. Detroit residents are up against a public transit system that is broken and in serious need of repair. In Detroit healthy transportation can mean healthy food access as well. Many families that I have worked with work hard to car pool with their friends and neighbors to be able to shop at a chain grocery store or they utilize a plethora of food options: local stores, buying co-ops, gardens, etc.

When people do not have adequate transportation that also constrains their food options. If you are walking to a grocery stores that is miles away, why wouldn’t you choose the convenience store instead? If you can’t afford personal transportation, that may also limit you to low cost, high calorie food items. If you can’t often go grocery shopping that may also mean you choose items that will last much longer, which also tend to be the least healthy food items.

Social m0bility is linked to transportation, especially in economically depressed urban centers. These issues both disproportionately affect low income minority community the most.

Detroit’s Changing Food Environment

Meijer is also starting to build close to the Westside and that represents a better potential for healthy food access than Whole Food ever could, but there really needs to be tax incentives for local grocery store owners if healthy food access is going to improve. The Fair Food Network has been advocating and now “Double Up Food Bucks” for fruit and vegetables will be available in some grocery stores soon.

There are increasing food and grocery options Downtown, where the 2010 Census shows population growth, however this population growth is from new residents not residents moving from the East and West side into Downtown. Ye Olde Butcher Shoppe has called itself a grocery store, with Papa Joe’s Market coming soon thanks to Dan Gilbert, these are options on top of the new Whole Foods. The growing Downtown/ Midtown populations are not the populations of Detroit who do not have social mobility and do not face the higher prevalence rates of diet-related disease and obesity. The population dense neighborhoods on the East and West side of the city have not seen new grocery stores and in a number of cases local grocers have shut down only to be turned into Family Dollar locations.

Critical Questions on Mental Health in America

The topic of America’s mental health system and the need to improve it has become a hot topics following the most recent gun violence at an elementary school in Connecticut. Most of what I have heard from the media and politicians is a broad “need to improve mental health.” It is always a very generalized statement without many specifics on how or where or to what end. It is likely that these pundits and politicians have no idea, but I think this leaves a critical gap in the mental health discussion.

“As soon as I’m finished speaking here, I will sit at that desk and I will sign a directive giving law enforcement, schools, mental health professionals and the public health community some of the tools they need to help reduce gun violence.

We will make it easier to keep guns out of the hands of criminals by strengthening the background check system.  We will help schools hire more resource officers if they want them and develop emergency preparedness plans.  We will make sure mental health professionals know their options for reporting threats of violence — even as we acknowledge that someone with a mental illness is far more likely to be a victim of violent crime than the perpetrator.” – President Obama 01/16/13

An article that I read noted that it was easier to buy a gun than to access mental health services in America. Why is that true?

Mental Health Services Stigma

I seems as though the mental health climate in America is very similar to the stigma associated with PTSD within military circles. With the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq I remember reading that soldiers wouldn’t seek out counseling  for their PTSD because it was interpreted as if the soldier was unfit for service and had serious issues. This applies in both the military and civilian settings. When a soldier leaves duty they may still face stigma related to their PTSD.

Likewise, this often plays out in the civilian world. Seeking counseling is never seen as a positive endeavor. Meeting with a psychologist is a negative event in your life that you never hope to repeat and you most definitely don’t tell anyone publicly. But why?

Why Seek Mental Health Services?

What causes people to seek out mental health services? Are individuals only referred by their family doctor or sometimes do they attend because they are required?

Many people seek out mental health services as a result of substance abuse. Dealing with addictions is probably the most well recognized aspect of mental health in the US. However, there is often a high degree of stigma even for those with mental illness and addictions. Overcoming the stigma and discrimination against those in need of mental health is a huge hurdle if President Obama and others hope that mental health will be more easily accessible among the general public.

Other well known reasons for mental health services are: depression, bipolar, anxiety, and PTSD. Nearly 80% of individuals who suffer from depression say that they experienced some form of discrimination (Mental Health America). Other studies have found that racial discrimination and an individual’s level of poverty also contribute strongly to mental health. However, a recent poll has found that stigma against depression and seeking treatment for depression is decreasing.

Where are Mental Health Services Accessed?

I know for many students being on a campus makes it fairly easy to meet with a Counselor at various locations. How would individuals without easy access find and utilize mental health services. I know that individuals can go to a hospital or an emergency room if they are in immediate need of mental health services, but that can’t be the ideal method of accessing mental health.

Most people probably have no idea that they have access to preventative mental health care with their insurance, however this goes back to the stigma associated with seeking such treatment. The other major barrier to accessing mental health services is the high cost with a minimum around $100 and extensive treatment reaching over $10,000. As a result of the cost barrier, only around 7% of all adult Americans accessed mental health services (NSDUH report).

Since the majority of mental health tends to affect poor individuals this cost barrier makes it even harder to identify and treat mental health. Mental health services is included in the “essential health benefits” piece of the Affordable Care Act, but it is left up to States as to what is included. Without some serious thinking about why, how, and where individuals access mental health services – improving access will just be more political rhetoric. If we are serious about improving the mental health system then we need to be asking serious questions.

indicators of econ-obesity growth

Obesity is still on the rise. In many cities there have been decade-long campaigns to improve healthy food access, spread information about health risks, and new national efforts to get children active – are they not working? Latest estimates predict that by 2030 almost half the adult population will be obese. Recently, the CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) wrote in the Washington Post about their latest report and the future impact of obesity on our economy. She noted the decline of productivity and increasing health care costs associated with obesity. While we often think about fast food, inactivity, and individual choices related to being obese, how often do we consider the economic causes and effects?

Obesity is Not a Choice

I have never met anyone who said that they specifically chose to suffer the health effects of being obese because they thought it would be a great way to live. However, beyond personal choices, obesity can be correlated with a number of social and environmental factors, namely: poverty, urban areas, as well as minority and low-income populations.

Just as individuals cannot choose their parents, they also cannot choose their life circumstances, which unfortunately can sometimes hinder efforts to live a healthier lifestyle. Research has shown that rising rates of obesity disproportionately affect Black and Hispanic populations. This demonstrates a confluence of factors with roots in racially motivated housing policies, lack of social mobility due to historical discrimination, and the absence of adequate health services for these communities.

Impoverished communities are filled with companies looking to take advantage of the marketplace of poverty. Dollar menus, frozen dinners, and corner store snacks – not to mention the advertising which helps build a psychological belief that it is quicker and cheaper to eat unhealthy foods.

In short, obesity is just as much an economic reality as it is a need for healthier lifestyles. It represents a by-product of mass producing foods to reduce costs and increase profits. People do not choose to live in poverty nor do they choose to be obese. Economic constraints on top of fast food advertising drives a culture of  unhealthy eating.

Tax the Fat

The debates have raged about recent plans to tax the size of soda pop in New York City or in other countries the tax on fatty foods. There is a growing field of research on behavioral economics, which argues that people will choose the option that is most beneficial to themselves.

This is, however, not always true. People do not always make the most rational decision especially when it comes to their food and eating habits. Increasing the economic burden on people who typically choose unhealthy foods is not necessarily the best option. If a tax is placed on high-calorie or high fat foods it allows the food and beverage companies to continue avoiding responsibility. It isn’t about personal freedom, it is about being able to compete in a marketplace where the cards are constantly stacked against the poor.

Food and beverage companies will still find a cheap way to produce their products that works around any tax or restrictive policy. These companies have a primary goal to make a profit. If making that profit means burdening the population with unhealthy foods and the long-term health effects, they have no qualms. This is where people generally argue that it is about personal choice. This is partly true, but also relates to my first argument that you can’t always choose your life circumstances. All around the world now people are struggling with obesity and healthy eating. Food and beverage corporations are able to take advantage of global income and food disparities to generate their profits.

Behaviors Always Win

Using a “fat tax” to increase the economic difficulty of buying unhealthy food is doing no good when there is a psychological war on TV and advertising campaigns.

“It’s the behavior stupid!”

We can talk all day about the responsibilities that corporations have to give people healthy foods as well as the responsibility of individuals to keep themselves healthy, but in the end it all comes down to behavior. When I say behavior I’m talking about the eating habits that people have learned since their childhood, the behavior influenced by the food commercials seen on TV, the behavior informed by the massive portion-sized, “give me what I paid for” food culture.

When we are constantly bombarded by images of juicy burgers, steaming pizzas, and actors telling us how amazing it is to get quick, cheap food – we will eventually believe it. Food and beverage companies employ their own teams of psychologists to be able to manipulate their advertising to be the most convincing. These companies have found out the best ways to exploit the disparities that people face in order to get more people to buy their unhealthy foods. Don’t have time to make dinner? Bring your kid through the drive-through. Buying groceries on a budget? Get 3 for $5 cases of pop or 2 for $5 bags of potato chips.

When it all comes down to what will or won’t work, people need to understand what they are up against, they need to be informed on what foods will benefit their health, and they also need to be able to have the tools to make healthy lifestyle changes. While many food companies watch their profits grow, many individuals watch their weight grow due to their own economic disparities. Helping people address these learned behaviors and economic barriers will help to reduce health care spending and increase the productivity of our economy.

Ebola, Disease Outbreaks, and Inadequate Health Systems

I vividly remember the Kagadi Hospital run by the Ministry of Health. In 2002, I was visiting the communities that would benefit from an ambulance fundraiser project. That evening the need for emergency transportation in the Kagadi-Nakuulabye area of the Kibaale District could not have been made more clear to me. Driving back to our housing one evening, our pickup truck was flagged down to help at the scene of a bicycle accident where two riders had collided head on in the dark. One man was bleeding from his ears and obviously needed advanced medical attention. We drove him, lying in the pickup truck bed, to the Kagadi Hospital only to be turned away because the staff said they didn’t have any supplies to treat the man. I remember looking into the hospital windows and seeing nothing but empty walls.

It came as a shock to read news of the Ebola outbreak in that very same area where I had visited 10 years ago: Kagadi, Kibaale District. My first thought was that the health care system couldn’t possibly respond quickly enough, but hopefully things had improved over the last decade. Reports noted that the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, CDC, and the World Health Organization (WHO) were assisting with the response. This was a positive sign since the area is rural, difficult to travel to, and as far as I knew lacking a strong health care system.

“This outbreak is occurring in the same area where the Red Cross is already responding to the growing crisis caused by the influx of Congolese refugees fleeing violence in their country” said Charlie Musoka, Regional Operations Coordinator for the International Federation of the Red Cross.

On top of dealing with the Ebola outbreak, the Ugandan Red Cross was also managing the influx of refugees into the country. My initial thought was that Ebola is easily transmitted by close contact between people and usually kills 90% of those infected. With the regular movement of people across the Uganda/ DRC border it could be just days before an Ebola outbreak occurs in the DRC.

Shortly after the Ebola outbreak, news broke that the Ugandan Ministry of Health needed Sh3 billion to be able to contain and manage the disease and necessary health care facilities. I was also contacted by the local health center in Kagadi and told that were having difficulty responding to the outbreak as well. My fears seemed to have been true and the health system was feeling the pressure of responding to an Ebola outbreak in an area where there was very little health care capacity.

Roughly, two weeks after the request for supporting funds by the Ugandan Ministry of Health, the Ebola outbreak is reported as contained in Uganda and a Ugandan team would be sent to the DRC to help contain the new outbreak there. Reports said that it was a different strain of Ebola, but the first reports were in a Uganda/DRC border town that is a regular crossing point between the two countries. I had worried about the lacking health care system in Uganda, but the health care system in the DRC is in an even more strained. There are limited health care workers and facilities, which are usually filled by casualties from the ongoing violent conflict in the region.

Early this month, the WHO declared Uganda Ebola free after there were no new cases reported after August 3rd (24 confirmed cases, 17 deaths). The facilities in Kibaale District remain on alert, but the larger Ebola crisis is in the DRC. The WHO confirmed the Ebola outbreak is a different strain (see map above) and not connected to the Ugandan outbreak, however there have already been 72 confirmed cases and 32 deaths. Health workers were reported infected in the Ugandan outbreak, but in the DRC so far 23 of the 32 deaths have been health care workers. Representatives of Medicines sans Frontiers note that the death of health care workers at hospitals scares people away from seeking treatment and they are more likely to continue the spread of Ebola. It seems that the DRC has been less equipped to deal with the Ebola outbreak or its just the nature of the area where the outbreak occurred that made it easier to spread.

Both of these examples of Ebola outbreaks in a remote region of Uganda and in a transit town in the DRC demonstrate the critical need for adequate health care systems and health care workers. Before conflict started in the DRC, the health care system was already underfunded and in need of investment. The United Nations reported that militias raided almost all of the health care facilities in rural areas where 70% of the populations lives. The conflict also disrupted transportation and everyone must travel by foot to get treatment. NGOs have tried to invest in the health care system, but Doctors Without Borders report regular attacks on their compounds. In Uganda, there has been similar conflict, but greater investment in the health system. However, a recent report highlighted the inadequate staffing and space in many key hospitals. In some areas there is 1 doctor for every 178,000 people. Due to financial constraints the Ugandan government has banned recruitment of health care workers.

No one can afford to not invest in health care capacity building. In these two countries it seems that health crises need to be managed by outside NGOs with additional funding. How can the international community better work to build the capacity of individual country’s health care systems?

Global Malnutrition and the Politics of Food

Whether they are starving or eating too much, children around the world are malnourished. A full belly doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is getting proper nutrition from the food that they eat. Obese children are just as nutritionally deficient as children who have bloated bellies from hunger. The result is a global generation of unhealthy children who will experience a shorter life expectancy than normal from complications with their health and related diseases. The double burden of malnutrition is seen in both a complete lack of access to food and an overabundance of unhealthy foods.

A recent World Health Organization (WHO) report stated that combating five major health factors could eliminate millions of premature deaths. Among those top five is childhood nutrition. Lacking nutritious food has serious implications for health, but consuming too much food without nutritional value, which contributes to obesity, is more likely to lead to a premature death. For the first time in 15 years, children in the US have a lower life expectancy than their parents. By the same token, children in countries defined as “developing” have faced low life expectancies for many years, but what they eat (or don’t eat) is less likely to kill them. Who would have imagined that being overweight is more likely to kill you than being underweight?

On the flip side of childhood nutrition is the near complete lack of access to food in developing countries. There were any number of crises this past year that qualified the “need” for food aid from “developed” countries. Floods, earthquakes, droughts, famines, etc. – but what is the state of food aid? Is it excellent nutritious assistance in difficult times? Bill Easterly and the Aid Watch blog ask: “Can the story on US food aid get any worse?,” noting that the US continues to support relief agencies that use a corn-soy food blend that doesn’t even meet the 1960s international nutrition standards of food aid. Children in developing countries don’t necessarily die from a lack of nutritious food, but rather from the diseases that attack their weakened immune systems. The food we eat is a first line of defense by keeping the rest of our body systems healthy. Some of the best examples of the importance of food and health come from Paul Farmer, who often says that, “the treatment for hunger is food.” Many times food is overlooked as a critical treatment in health crises, which makes it that much more important to invest in nutritious alternatives for food aid and support local farmers around the world.

Unfortunately here in the US, corporations have a firm grip on what we eat. There are a small number of major factory farming corporations that produce our food. They use coercive actions and their money to keep control of farmers and the food industry. This hurts our families and communities here in the US and contributes to the nutritional inadequacy of what Americans eat, but it also has far reaching implications in developing countries. Because of the control by US corporations of the food industry and the US government’s subsidies for farmers, food prices have been rising steadily around the world. This impact is hitting small farmers in developing countries hardest as they struggle to find markets to sell their produce and support their families. These small farmers can’t compete with US farmers who are government subsidized or the US corporations who are mass producing and shutting them out. Even as people in developing countries struggle to buy food to eat, one in six Americans are struggling with hunger. This is largely a result of the economic downturn and has affected more than just those already considered poor in the US. It is estimated that nearly one billion people do not have access to a secure source of food around the globe.

While the fact that many Americans struggle with food security is shocking, the spike in rates of obesity demonstrates the pressing need for communities to rethink how they eat and live. Obesity gives a blatant visual representation of how much control we have lost when it comes to our food. The WHO states that “globesity” is spreading across the globe and millions will suffer if we don’t make changes. A recent study conducted by Wayne State University showed that one third of infants in the US are obese or at risk for obesity. This allows us to easily assume that an obese infant will become an obese adult. Hunger and food security are extremely important issues when it comes to talking about health and nutrition. Many who suffer being underweight have suffered through natural disasters, but the immediate threat to children and the global population is the man-made disaster of being overweight.

Thankfully there are many people who are working to fix the food industry, support local farmers, and promote healthy eating to children in schools. President Obama recently signed the Child Nutrition Bill to increase access to healthy foods in schools. Where there have been numerous policy barriers nationally and internationally, this is a step in the right direction to bring policies in line with the health needs of our global population. We must commit to supporting the basic health of our children if we care about a building a healthy future.

Originally featured and posted at,  Americans for Informed Democracy on 18 January 2011.