Walmart reduces obesity

A synchronistic finding as Walmart continues efforts to shed its image of old: the presence of a big box retailer seems to translate into community member weight loss.

From Portfolio’s Odd Numbers:

The researchers think this happens because cheaper goods from Wal-Mart allow shoppers to spend more of their budget on relatively expensive healthier foods. Providing some support to their assertion, when Courtemanche and Carden broke down their results by income, they found that the lowest-earning people saw the most weight loss.

Interesting.  Whatever your thoughts on the company (or the rebranding), they do sell stuff for cheap.  Cheap is good right now, especially when it means healthier Americans.

In: Required Reading

Both from the Wall Street Journal‘s Health Blog:

Tom Daschle will become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services when the Obama administration takes over on January 20.  He’s got big ideas for health care reform.

CEOs: Obesity is the biggest problem facing health care.  Not only is obesity extremely unhealthy, it is also going to cost the health care system big dollars in the near future (treatment, equipment, retrofitting buildings, etc.).

England Gets Offensive on Obesity

Yikes! From the Mirror:

It is the biggest health challenge facing the nation – nine out of 10 adults and two-thirds of children will be obese or overweight by 2050.

Holy _ _ _ _!

Nine areas in England are developing programs to combat rising obesity through local and national government matching funds.  They’re calling the areas “healthy towns” with the hope that eventually it will become a country-wide effort.

Each town is trying something different; the plans range from grow-your-own vegetable gardens to bike maintenance help to encourage more cycling.  Tower Hamlets is rewarding restaurants that offer healthier choices (ed.: a Quarter Pounder is a Quarter Pounder is a Quarter Pounder).

At least they’re doing something.

Manchester may have the most promising approach.  From the Associated Press/Yahoo News:

Manchester is hoping to fight fat with a reward system that works like a retail loyalty card. But instead of earning credit for opening their wallets, residents will be rewarded for keeping their feet on the treadmill and their fridge stocked with healthy food.

Starting next fall, Manchester residents will be able to swipe their rewards cards and earn points every time they buy fruits and vegetables, use a community swimming pool, attend a medical screening or work out with a personal trainer. Points can be redeemed for athletic equipment, donations to school athletic departments and personal training sessions with local athletes.

The programs are part of a 400 million pound (the currency, not the unit of measure) effort to help Brits get fit.  We will watch with interest…

Nationalized Health

Mexico is getting fat.

The government is doing something about it.

“Vamos Por Un Million de Kilos” (Let’s Lose a Million Kilos) is the name of a successful campaign to get Mexicans to lose weight.  The Mexican government expects its country’s obesity levels to catch those in the United States.  Fifty percent of Mexico’s population is overweight and childhood obesity is increasing.

There are other nationalized efforts underway.  According to this AP article in the USA Today:

Mexico is working to mandate more physical education in public schools and encourage employers and unions to give workers time for exercise. The administration of President Felipe Calderon says it has built or renovated more than 800 public sports facilities around the country. And the National Institute of Public Health is promoting food education and healthier choices in schools, such as fruits and vegetables instead of chips and soda.

The weight-loss campaign reached its goal in just four months and has now entered a second phase “Vamos Por Mas Kilos” or “Let’s Lose More Kilos.”

Except for the examples of success, the article mentions very little on the Mexican citizens perspective on the effort.  Such a national effort in the U.S. would probably be laughed at and unsuccessful.  An effort, though, is needed.

Richard Simmons does good

Childhood obesity is a big problem.

Richard Simmons, he of Sweatin’ to the Oldies fame, is doing his part by testifying before Congress on ideas to combat childhood obesity on Thursday.

His personal contribution, from USA Today:

He says he is developing a reality TV show in which he’ll help children and families lose weight. “It’s going to show Americans that it’s possible to realistically lose weight, be happy and go on to other goals,” he says. “It won’t be an angry show with screaming and yelling. Just teamwork. No competition. It’s about saving lives.”

The Skinny on Canada (witty, right?)

I don’t know if a single payer health care system would have prevented our current obesity situation—but it’s difficult not to look at our neighbors to the north and notice significantly lower levels of obesity on this map (via Richard Florida).

David Eaves:

If Canadian provinces were ranked along side US States, they would rank 1st (BC), 2nd (QC), 3rd (ON), 4th (AL) and tied for 5th (MB) (YK) as the least obese provinces/states. Colorado would be the first American state placing 7th, with the provinces of NS in 8th and SK in 9th.

Whatever the reason, Canada is doing something right, and the U.S. is going about the obesity situation all wrong.