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Health, Children, and the Government

December 7, 2011

10 days ago: “An Ohio third-grader who weighs more than 200 pounds has been taken from his family and placed into foster care after county social workers said his mother wasn’t doing enough to control his weight.”

Today: “A Texas woman who for months was unable to qualify for food stamps pulled a gun in a state welfare office and staged a seven-hour standoff with police that ended with her shooting her two children before killing herself, officials said Tuesday.”

This Summer July, 2011: “Couple With Obese Children Charged With Endangerment: Authorities found a 5 year old girl weighing 150 pounds with matted hair infested with lice and bugs…her 4 year old sister weighed nearly 90 lbs, was wearing a soiled diaper and still drinking from a bottle.”

2009: “In 2009, Britain’s Channel 4 featured 19 year old Billy Robbins, who at that time weighed 60 stone…or 840 pounds (!!), and he was reported to be the “Heaviest Teenager in the World.” He is from Houston, Texas and “his weight has reached critical proportions. But for now, everyday goes on as normal.” Billy is “almost immobile…and for the last 3 years, he has barely left his bedroom.”

Horrifying. Terrible. Appalling. A week ago, I’m posting about how Congress is deeming that pizza is an acceptable vegetable substitute for school lunches while the USDA tries to pose new, healthier standards. 6 months ago, I wrote about the couple that was charged with endangerment while their children festered in filth, while 10 days ago an obese child was taken away from his mother, only to begin to be dragged through the foster care system. And today, a woman who could not get the support she needed to feed her children took the ultimate act of violence on herself and her own children out of what must have been the most desperate hopelessness and despair. Critics write off Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign as “stigmatizing,” while the movement attempts to highlight that “the physical and emotional health of an entire generation is at stake,” while the State of Georgia plasters billboards with images of “chubby” children standing above phrases like “Chubby Kids May Not Outlive Their Parents.” The sheer hypocrisy and ludicrous lack of standards and accountability that all of these cases demonstrate is shocking. And should be a wake-up call. It’s time to realize that food and health are not just personal issues that plague us as individuals: food and health affect entire families, communities, laws, regulations, moral standards. Obesity is no longer just about percentages and health care costs–it is about the very relationships between parents and children, between the family and government organizations designed to defend the defenseless. Shame, fear, humiliation, complete lack of organized or thoughtful response to ongoing crises in our country…why are these the tactics and solutions used, instead of working to find and promote education and tolerance and public works programs to support and teach people and communities and organizations? Remember how Tennessee’s Medicaid program is supporting super-expensive weight-loss surgeries but not nutritional counseling? It was then that I said
“Ignorance and lack of education/healthy lifestyle changes are being promoted and Medicaid is doing everything that it can to not help people positively impact their lives, but instead to find an alternate route that completely circumvents the problem.” The health of our country is spiraling downwards every single day, and yet we continue to be ignorant and passive. Sometimes I feel completely helpless and overwhelmed researching for and writing this blog, as if there is just too much happening on a systemic level and how can I as an individual make any impact? But we can each be a crusader, for our own personal health and in educating ourselves, and making a difference in our own lives and communities is a crucial step to our health as a nation. “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 7, 2011 7:04 pm

    GREAT post on a very sore and sad subject…okay if I link to it?

  2. December 8, 2011 1:31 am

    Of course, Norma. And thanks so much for your continuing support!

  3. Sexy Curmudgeon permalink
    December 8, 2011 2:55 am

    So right Hangry Hippo, but I must admit that I can’t help feeling extremely guilty at the idea of upholding my own personal health and educating myself, mainly because obesity is so directly linked, as you’ve pointed out so rigorously above, to wealth and economic inequality. It’s more than a little grim to realize that we have so much exposure to and education regarding this topic, and there are so many people that don’t.

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