One of the attributes of a great image is its ability to convey vast amounts of information and meaning quickly and simply. Here’s a terrific example.
In one of his typically astute comments, Barry Carol alerted us to a wonderfully clever graphic by Wellington Gray – the image needs more space to be viewed properly than this blog allows, so you’ll have to click on the link – displaying the percentage of people older than 15 in different developed countries with a Body Mass Index greater than 30. In other words, the percentage of fat adults.
At 31% of our adult population, the US has the most obesity by far,
fully 20-25 percent higher than our closest competitors in the race to
lifestyle oblivion, Mexico and the UK. At the skinny end of the scale,
France, Austria and Italy are at 9%, and
Norway is at 8%. The ridiculously industrious Koreans and Japanese are
hovering around 3%, or about 1/10th of our obesity problem.
Of course the subtext of this graphic is that we can see immediately
who has an advantage or a disadvantage on cost, productivity and competitiveness in the increasingly global
marketplace. The US’ unbridled lust for poor food and inactivity, urged on by the industries that profit from those traits, will translate to the
biggest costs and the lowest productivity, and these influences will
undermine our long term competitiveness. The Japanese and Koreans, who
take the term "lean" seriously, will whip our fat asses.
The obesity problem, like the health care problem, is a matter of
national will, policy and lobbying. As long as the agriculture and
junk food, prepared food and fast food sectors lobby unimpeded for tax subsidies
for low nutrition foods, open access for their advertising to our
children and murky information about what’s in the stuff we stuff down
our gullets, they’ll prosper and America will decline.
The rules that guide how businesses behave are decided in policy. Effecting change will require that our nation’s non-agriculture and non-food business leaders, our most influential
individuals, come together and collectively determine that change is necessary. They must decide that it is in their economic interests for American
workers to be healthy so they can be productive, and so that productivity can
translate to competitiveness.
As with health care reform, meaningful reform on behalf of America will require convergence with the expediencies of power. Under our current system, nothing else can accomplish the change we so desperately need.