The National Security Health Risk

Expanding Waistlines

A lot of activity, funding, and attention has been attributed to stabilizing the Middle East for reasons of our own National Security. While those battles rage on, we would be remiss to ignore the threats occurring on our own soil. Not necessarily one of violent or terrorist means, but one of our nation’s growing health concerns.

Via Sandro Galea – US News:

“True security comes from living in a society that is not vulnerable to preventable hazard and disease, or divided by health gaps that undermine equity and well-being. Public health has cultivated this security by addressing the cultural, economic and environmental conditions that shape health and contribute to social cohesion. Fundamentally, national security deals with threats to these conditions, which challenge the stability of a given country or region. This means distinguishing between threats that are tangential to the overall stability of a country, and those that undermine its ability to remain functional and its people healthy, over the long term. A longstanding example of such a threat is the problem of HIV/AIDS in Africa, which has strained the stability of several regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.

What health risks pose a security threat to the U.S.? In this country, we have seen obesity evolve into a clear security threat, straining our health system, our economy and our capacity to live active, healthy lives. Rising obesity rates cost the U.S. an estimated $147 to $210 billion per year in health care spending. In 2015, obesity rates among adults exceeded 35 percent in four states, increasing the burden of associated conditions like heart disease, diabetes and infant mortality. Obesity also exacerbates health divides that exist between vulnerable minority groups, and between the rich and the poor, deepening the growing inequality in the U.S. Between 2011 and 2012, the overall obesity rate was 34.9 percent. Obesity rates among adults during that time were highest in the black community, at 47.8 percent, and the Latino community, at 42.5 percent, compared to 32.6 percent obesity for whites.”

So without intervention, we will continue to see a divide between the have’s and the have not’s as it relates to health status. As trends such as obesity and diabetes run rampant throughout all social stratospheres and demographics, the poor and disenfranchised will be hit the hardest. This however, won’t simply affect the foot and disenfranchised, as everyone will have to collectively foot the bill for their emergency room resources. It is then in everyone’s collective interest to invest in methods to become healthier as a society and limit these health discrepancies.


In a somewhat ironic turn, the money we divest from health infrastructure can actually impact the Military directly:

“The percentage of military personnel classified as overweight has increased significantly since 2001. Close to 8 percent of the military’s active-duty force is now classified as clinically overweight, compared to 1.6 percent in 2001. It is hard not to see rising military obesity rates as part of the larger picture of obesity in the U.S., with 20 percent of male military recruits and 40 percent of female recruits classified as initially too overweight to join the ranks. While many in the media have begun calling military obesity a national security threat due to its potential to undermine the combat readiness of our troops, obesity among the armed forces is actually symptomatic of the true security threat posed by obesity – its broader role in making Americans less healthy at all levels of society.”

So short of sending out portly soldiers to fight for our freedom, healthy lifestyles should be more attainable for all Americans. The grand solutions for these issues of sustainability, reasonably priced healthy food options, and access to fair healthcare require major shifts in our nation’s infrastructure. This isn’t a problem we can simply ignore, and what we’ll end up finding out sooner than later is that folks will start supporting the candidates at the ballot box who address these challenges head-on.

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