Heavy in school, burdened for life

The New York Times has an OpEd today by three college professors who undertook a substantial study about obesity:

"MUCH of the debate about the nation’s obesity epidemic has focused, not surprisingly, on food: labeling requirements, taxes on sugary beverages and snacks, junk food advertisements aimed at children and the nutritional quality of school lunches.

But obesity affects not only health but also economic outcomes: overweight people have less success in the job market and make less money over the course of their careers than slimmer people. The problem is particularly acute for overweight women, because they are significantly less likely to complete college.

We arrived at this conclusion after examining data from a project that tracks more than 10,000 people who graduated from Wisconsin high schools in 1957. From career entry to retirement, overweight men experienced no barriers to getting hired and promoted. But heavier women worked in jobs that had lower earnings and social status and required less education than their thinner female peers."

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A couple of years ago I wrote an NCR story titled, "Rightsizing the church: physical accountability":

Siena College released a study of New Yorkers that found that "44 percent of Empire State residents acknowledge that they are overweight. Less than one-third believe they are in good health and at the correct weight.

The Siena survey found that more than 90 percent of New Yorkers agree that obesity is a serious public health problem and three-quarters (76 percent) have all the information they need in order to eat a nutritious diet. Nearly two-thirds, meanwhile, have had a doctor talk to them about diet, exercise or nutrition.

“When it comes to health, nutrition and exercise, knowing and doing just don’t match up,” said institute director Dr. Don Levy.

When it comes to Christian clergy, the picture is decidedly worse. A 2004 national survey of more than 2,500 religious leaders by Pulpit and Pew, a research project on pastoral leadership based at Duke Divinity School, found that 76 percent of Christian clergy were either overweight or obese, compared with 61 percent of the general population.

The costs are real: Overweight or obese persons can raise group health insurance rates, are more likely to miss work for health reasons, and, when it comes to clergy and other church managers, say some, set a bad example for the work force.

“Influential people ought to live the example that resonates with this survey data, namely, people should take care of themselves,” says Levy.


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