Turning the tide of this epidemic is challenging for several reasons. First, changing behavior is never easy, particularly when that behavior is rooted in much deeper changes in the way many Americans live, work, play and eat. Second, public resources to implement new policies and programs are constrained as never before. Given these twin challenges, the importance of responsibility and leadership in combating obesity and chronic disease cannot be overemphasized. Both are clearly needed at the level of individuals and parents, who ultimately make the decisions and set the examples that influence not only their own health but that of future generations.
But responsibility and leadership are also needed at the level of communities and key institutions, including government. These institutions shape the environment in which individual and family decisions get made and they can help bring about the broader changes needed to ensure that all Americans—including especially vulnerable citizens—have access to information and options that support and encourage healthy choices.
Data courtesy of the Boston Foundation and the New England Healthcare Institute