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The Obesity Epidemic Remains Rampant in the LA Area

The past few years have seen a spike in obesity in the Los Angeles County area. 37% of teens in LA are overweight or obese, followed by 22% for the adults. This is not surprising given that California ranks 38th in the nationwide obesity rankings. A nationwide survey by WalletHub even names Riverside as the country’s most obese city. In line with this, many have grown wary of the dangerous implications this chronic condition will bring LA and its residents.

Obesity and its effects in the LA area

First of all, the exact meaning of obesity needs to be understood. Although many are unsure about the difference between overweight and obesity, there are distinct ways that they vary. For starters, those who are overweight only have a BMI of 25 to 29.9—also described as pre-obesity. Meanwhile, those who have a BMI of at least 30 are considered obese. Aside from this, obesity also increases the risk for more diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers.

In the LA area, obesity has exposed a health disparity between South LA and its neighbors. This is because people from the South have historically struggled to access healthy food, stable jobs, and health insurance. Case in point, childhood obesity levels in South LA are at 29% — the highest levels of childhood obesity in the county. Moreover, 45% of adults in the area struggled with access to medical care, citing lack of affordability as one of the main factors. Half the population is uninsured, and over 31% of residents are below the federal poverty line, which raises concerns about how the obesity epidemic and a host of other factors will be handled. This is especially worrisome given that obese individuals in California typically have annual medical bills that are 42% greater than those at a healthier weight.

Given that obesity’s effects extend beyond health, many have found that this condition affects aspects like employment and housing, too. To date, LA is the 4th most expensive city globally, with the cost of living 50% higher than the national average. To make ends meet, many citizens depend on regular paychecks. According to the Los Angeles Times, nearly eight million Los Angelenos even have multiple jobs. Sadly, this is an issue for those with obesity, given that the condition has been found to raise absenteeism, illness, and injury by up to 128% per year. As such, obese individuals may find themselves missing paid work days or being let go.

What interventions are being done to combat the problem

With a potentially grim outlook on the horizon, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a number of chronic obesity medications. For instance, there is the weight loss drug called semaglutide. This injectable drug by Novo Nordisk can provide an average weight loss of 15% or more. Such weight loss would be beneficial for the Southern LA county residents, although it remains to be seen whether they will reap the benefits of these medications given the hefty price tag they currently command.

Apart from this, officials have also been looking into more holistic efforts to curb obesity. So far, LA County has put into place various community developments to make healthy living the standard. For instance, there is increased access to healthy food for more than 6,000 low-income residents. The farmers’ markets were incentivized to accept Electronic Transfer (EBT) cards as payment. In addition, specific guidelines were developed to limit the establishment of fast food joints in LA, especially in impoverished areas with high obesity. Overall, more physical lifestyles are being encouraged through various programs and agreements to help the population take the necessary steps for weight loss.

Future obesity outlook

With current trends, studies predict that nearly one in two American adults will be obese by 2030. Despite the positive strides in medical weight loss and positive reinforcement by local governments, more steps are required. There have to be clear and organized solutions for the healthcare disparity in regions like Southern LA.

In summary, systemic changes need to be made since obesity is only a symptom of more pressing issues like poverty and lack of access to healthcare, among numerous others. There’s a lot to figure out, and despite the small victories, the fight against obesity continues.