Poverty, smoking, and obesity are all major contributors to diabetes. It is like the sword of Damocles dangling over many peoples head creating inevitability for developing the disease. We know that all three of these social conditions create hardship, but looking at the heat maps I presented a few weeks ago, it seems like there is an uncanny correlation between the conditions and diabetes. What propels this triumvirate in the southeastern part of our country, and what can we do to stem it from eradicating sections of our society.
Poverty has always caused hardships for individuals and families. According to the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy’s National Poverty Center, “In 2010, 15.1 percent of all persons lived in poverty. The poverty rate in 2010 was the highest poverty rate since 1993.” Creating a daily struggle to find or maintain the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing, forces people to take shortcuts. Adding health issues to poverty created from personal choices limits a person’s ability to improve their financial situation. It is a fallacy to think that all poverty stricken individuals and families qualify for government assistance. WIC and other government assistance programs have tried to create systems with better food choices. Yes, there are anecdotal stories of people abusing the system, selling their cards, and wasting their opportunity. They are not the norm to judge an entire system, merely loopholes to close and reinforce. The families and individuals that do not qualify for government assistance and are living in poverty are the largest group that we should be trying to influence. This group has the choice between spending their money on fresh produce as recommended by nutritionists or frozen processed all-in-one meals that are affordable. I understand it. I’ve spent down to my last $10 and had a week until a paycheck, sometimes you have to make a tough decision. Sometimes the 99₵ burrito is the dinner option, but when it becomes your primary option every day, your health suffers. It is hard to track your fat and carb intake in processed foods. The serving size and portions of some processed meals are obfuscated. Processed foods are cheaper alternatives to healthier choices. Fresh meat and produce prices rise constantly. Organic options are devastating to a grocery budget. It’s just plain easier to prepare a microwave meal than cook on a stove top a meat and two vegetables. Food Inc., a documentary film by Robert Kenner, has a segment talking to a family about their food choices. The mother specifically says that it is cheaper for them to eat as a family from McDonalds than cook a meal. Jamie Oliver transformed a school system’s lunch program in West Virginia using parent education, and natural ingredients, but parents would still send their students to school with bags of chips or pudding as the main component of their lunchtime meal. Many families sacrifice health for that convenience. It really is a slow slippery slide into a sedentary lifestyle. Continually making these food choices throughout our society leads to the obesity epidemic. It is logical that poverty and diabetes would have a relationship.
Poverty and obesity are the one-two punch in the diabetic belt. Right when you take a hard jab from poverty in the chin, a shot to the gut from obesity crumples you to the mat. Ironically, the “land of plenty” is killing us. Obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. It has become a cause that Michelle Obama has worked to fight from her position of First Lady. Politics aside, it is an uphill battle for any concerned group or administration. Our lifestyles no matter the level of income do not lead us towards healthy choices. Most working adults are at their job and average of 8.7 hours a day according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics. There are several noted critics of this statistic with most common complaints being it does not take into account work taken home, commuting, working lunches, white collar vs. blue collar jobs, etc. With the increased demands from careers and parenting, families are caught in a whirlwind of activities. Constantly in motion between appointments, it is easier to go through a drive thru than eat prepared meal. Finally the family gets home to sit in front of a tv or video game to relax. Our schedules and lifestyles take us closer and closer to diabetes and a myriad of other avoidable health problems. After realizing our health is in rapid decline, we focus on strict diets that focus on supplements or miracle drugs/food/fad. How many times have you seen a link or ad for “the weight loss solution they don’t want you to see” blinking in your browser? Dieting fads line every supermarket magazine, play on late night tv, and beg you to click their banner ad. Don’t be fooled. It’s a business. It’s a very profitable one. Go to your doctor or meet with a nutritionist, to get informed before you start a radical change in your diet.