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Obesity: a Threat to Our National Security?
Linking obesity to our national security may seem like a stretch, but the latest report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation makes it clear that the problem is as serious as a heart attack.
The124-page report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future,” is a carefully researched analysis of the wide-ranging effects of America’s obesity crisis. The goal, as stated by its authors, is to “raise awareness, drive action, identify solutions, and reverse the epidemic.”
A healthy, strong, and willing military is critical to our security as a nation, but with nearly one third of young Americans overshooting the weight limit, it is becoming harder to recruit young people for the job. Of our active duty personnel, about two thirds are overweight, and more than 10 percent are medically obese. Poor physical fitness is also rampant amongst new recruits, and the more elite military units such as Special Operations are hard pressed to find candidates that can meet the rigorous fitness requirements.
Firefighters and police officers are also hindered by obesity and lack of exercise. In fact, the report notes that “more firefighters die of heart attacks while on the job than from any other cause.” While stress is doubtless a contributor, the rise in heart attacks appears to be tracking the increasing levels of overweight and obesity.
There is good news, as the military and many fire stations and police departments are taking steps to bring healthier foods and more intensive physical training to their members. However, with so many Americans failing to even reach the minimal requirements for these critical jobs, it is clear that the problems we see in young adults very often begin in childhood.
Creating good health at home and at school, by making smart choices about food and exercise, will go a long way towards keeping our nation great and strong.
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