STATE HEALTH PROFILE: Fast Food Drives Up Obesity, Diabetes and Health Care Costs
Despite Californians' reputation as health food lovers, a well- concealed love of fast food has helped spark a significant jump in cases of obesity and diabetes throughout the state, according to a massive study released Tuesday by the state Department of Health Services. "Despite the buffed, health food-loving image of the Golden State ... the long-term health of California adults is in serious trouble because of a combination of bad eating and inactivity," stated the study. The number of overweight Californians increased by nearly 50% from 1984 to 1997, while diabetes cases jumped approximately 25% in the same period (Minton, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/22). The AP/Los Angeles Times reports that "the numbers could get worse." Experts advise that "[u]nder newly revised health standards, nearly half of the state's adults could be considered overweight in future years" (Coleman, 9/22). Researchers link the increases with Californians' frequent dining at fast food restaurants, in addition to a lack of physical activity. A survey revealed that 48% of people "ate fast food the day before" they were questioned compared to only 37% in 1989. Other findings regarding bad eating habits included:
- Only 33% of adults ate the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables;
- 44% of those surveyed did not consume any "whole grain breads, corn tortillas or high fiber cereals on the survey day";
- 23% of adults did not consume any milk products on a daily basis (Coit, Los Angeles Daily News, 9/22).
Forking Over the Health Care Dough
The study results have public health officials worried about the future health care costs. It is expected that about 35,000 "people [in California] will die this year from illnesses related to poor diet and physical inactivity," according to Dr. James Stratton, the state's health officer (Sevrens, San Jose Mercury News, 9/22). In an effort to encourage Californians to eat healthier, the state launched an educational campaign this year featuring public service announcements, brochures, advertisements, and community events (Daily News, 9/22). "The costs in health care -- some $15 billion annually -- and personal suffering are staggering and could be avoided with simple changes in diet and lifestyle," Stratton said (Perkins/Wiley, Sacramento Bee, 9/22).