Killer at Large is a documentary that discusses the toxic environment and policies which contribute to the majority (2/3) of Americans being either overweight or obese. Unstable home life, unsafe communities, incredibly unhealthy school lunches, and malicious advertising were just some of the factors presented in the film.
Compared to the Health Belief of Self-Efficacy model for making lifestyle changes, the Social Ecological Model takes into account the social, community, and institutional entities that all have a role in the health of the individual and the nation.
Some factors discussed:
- $1 can buy more unhealthy food than healthy food; this is why States with statistically lower socioeconomic classes have statistically higher rates of obesity and related diseases
- US Government requires school lunches contain AT LEAST 600 kcal of food; this is not met with fruits/vegetables/low-fat milk/salad, but with pizza and fast foods. There is no upper limit for calories.
- As more classtime was given to preparing for standardized tests, more time was taken away from physical activity classes.
- Advertising to children is excessive and manipulative, using well-loved characters to promote unhealthy foods.
- Physical activity can’t simply negate an unhealthy diet. Promoting exercise and ignoring diet is a strategy used to appear “healthy”.
- The environment is literally toxic: that is, Obesogenic.
I think it’s easy for people who have had healthier homes or been fit their whole lives to say “People are just lazy! They just need to exercise more and eat less.”, but that only considers the “Individual” level of the SEM.
Consider what families, communites, schools, and workplaces can do to help fight the obesity epidemic.
Surely people need to be educated to make better decisions regarding food selection and portion size, spot tactics used by advertisements to make them hungry when they’re not, and seek ways to incorporate more exercise in their lives. But individuals adopt so much from their family and school and community before they even realize they are in control of their health.
I believe it’s ultimately up to the individual to decide that they want to change their health and to commit to making those actions. But I also believe that we cannot ignore that factors beyond their control that have led to the overwhelming obesity in America.
Obesity is not just a reflection of an individual’s life and lifestyle, but the environment and country that we are in.