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Surprising Science

Obesity in America

An effective response to the obesity epidemic will come only when pundits and policymakers unite around scientifically-robust policies that address its causes and consequences.

America’s national perspective on obesity is marred by two principal misunderstandings—one evident in Palin’s flippant treatment of the epidemic, and the other apparent in Obama’s misdirected policy agenda. First, and cardinally, obesity is a slow epidemic, and therefore does not elicit the same sense of urgency as less deadly, but more rapid-acting epidemics, such as the H1N1 flu epidemic (which only killed 4% as many Americans as obesity did in 2009). Second, while exposure to other diseases seems independent of individual choices, obesity appears to be completely dependent on individual lifestyle choices. This is untrue.


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