Obesity is linked to many serious health conditions, such as diabetes and cancer. Like other Americans, military warriors, past and present, and their families feel the effects of obesity through negative health impacts and out-of-pocket costs.
For example, the inability to meet service weight and physical fitness standards is a common reason for early discharge. According to a recent Army study, “Too Fat to Fight,” 27 percent of all Americans 17-to-24 years of age are too heavy to join the military. Another major concern is the negative effect of obesity on force readiness.
We have an opportunity to improve the health and well-being of warriors, past and present, military families and military communities as a whole. To achieve this outcome, health promotion and wellness initiatives should be focused on influencing behavior throughout the “life space”— the 525,500 minutes in a year that Soldiers and retirees, their Family members and Army civilians are not seeing a health care provider.
One critical component of this complex issue is ensuring the affordability of and access to healthier food options. This initiative is aligned with the National Prevention Strategy’s Healthy Eating strategic priority. The question of whether healthy foods are really more expensive is explored in the May 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service report titled, “Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? It Depends On How You Measure the Price.”
In the report, authors Andrea Carlson and Elizabeth Frazão compare prices of healthy and less-healthy foods using three different measures: the price per calorie, the price per unit of edible weight and the price of an average portion.
They also calculate the daily cost of meeting the food group recommendations on the ChooseMyPlate.gov website. For all metrics except the price of food per calorie, the authors find that healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined for this study as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).
The fight against obesity can only be won by promoting environmental changes, wellness activities, policies that support healthy behaviors and staying engaged in current best practices that can help prevent and reduce obesity.
For more information on the USDA Economic Research Service report, visit U.S. Department of Agriculture, www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib96.