"Leaning tower of sugar" by tamdotcom is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (via Flickr)

Despite small-scale efforts from restaurants in metropolitan areas to display calorie counts on menus and make smaller soda cups, the obesity rates in America haven’t changed much. Although obesity trends in most states have stagnated, the results of a food-obsessed culture are alarming. Since 1980, childhood obesity has tripled, and obesity rates among young teenagers aged 12 to 19 have quadrupled from five to 20 percent.

The average American gets 16% of their calories from added sugar. This startling statistic is 6% more than the Food and Drug Administration’s recommendation, and 11% percent higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum recommendation. Since sugar is known to contribute to the obesity epidemic, cities such as New York and Philadelphia are taking measures to help discourage excess sugar intake in consumers. However, a nationwide tax is likely needed to seriously fight obesity. What are the benefits and potential consequences of having a federal excise tax on sugar?

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"Vegetables" by Jeremy Keith via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As a child, I distinctly remember sitting at my dining room table for hours and hours wishing for the tiny amount of broccoli on my almost empty plate to disappear so I could be excused from the table. If it was up to my picky self, I would have grilled cheese or pizza for every single meal, completely forgoing any sufficiently nutritious food. As for many parents, forcing me to eat fruits and vegetables became a consistent struggle throughout my entire childhood. Covering broccoli with cheese or placing vegetables in a batch of buttered noodles were just a few tactics my parents implemented in order for me to have a balanced diet.

"Antibiotics" by Sheep purple via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Since the 1950s, the agricultural industry has used antibiotics as a precautionary measure to prevent widespread infection in the crowded, restrictive settings of a food animal farm. Antibiotics are readily available, low cost, and promote profitable weight gain in food animals compared to other capable forms. Approximately 80% of all antibiotics sold in the United States can be traced back to agricultural usage and many overlap with the antibiotics used to treat human illnesses. The World Health Organization classified several growth-promoting antibiotics utilized by food corporations as critically important to human medicine. The FDA does not strictly regulate the use of antibiotics for agricultural purposes.

"Ivinghoe Beacon seen looking north from The Ridgeway" by Pointilist is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 (via Wikipedia)

A recent study by the University of Cambridge reported that the benefits of walking and cycling outside outweigh the risks associated with current air pollution levels in the UK . Approximately 40,000 deaths in the UK per year are attributed to exposure to outdoor air pollution, and outdoor exercise contributes to that exposure. However, according to the University of Cambridge researchers, the health benefits of exercise, namely lowering the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and several cancers, outweighs the harmful effects of air pollution to one’s body.

"Wind turbines and Corn, HDR" by Patrick Finnegan is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Take a drive through Greencastle and the surrounding areas, and you’ll see corn, and lots of it. This may seem fitting for the rural Midwest, but corn’s reign is much larger than that. The reality is that in 2015, the total acreage of corn planted in the US could cover the entire nation of Germany. That is a lot of corn.

"Classroom" by Steven Brewer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (via Flickr)

Social constructs of parenting and childrearing norms change over time as the idea of the “right” or “best” way to raise a child is continually debated, such as the social acceptability of spanking. A recent article in The Atlantic titled, “Welcome to Parent College,” explores this notion and the ethical dilemmas surrounding an increasing number of classes across the U.S. that teach parents how to be parents, a little-explored corner of the healthcare realm. Triple P, the Positive Parenting Program, is the curriculum behind the parenting class at the San Francisco center. The class includes parents who have been proven or suspected of committing child abuse and have been referred by social workers, as well as those who are simply at the ends of their ropes, like those who have acknowledged their own tempers and waning patience with unruly children.

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"Not 100% Effective" by Nate Grigg is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

Birth control access has been a long debated issue in the United States. Obtaining birth control methods usually means women must go to a doctor’s office in order to obtain a prescription, which can be difficult, for financial reasons or if the hospital is religiously affiliated, for example. On January 1, Oregon’s “over-the-counter” birth control law went into effect, and .

"Houston Skyline" by Bill Bradford is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (via Flickr)

As Americans continue to top the charts of obesity and unhealthy lifestyle choices, employers around the country are beginning to look for ways to improve the work environment by promoting exercise and other activities that promote employees’ overall health. Many companies are encouraging employees to sign up for online programs that are able to track a person’s exercise and diet, as well as monitor any health changes that may occur in a person’s life. These programs, although beneficial in many ways, have also raised suspicions about the amount of privacy and protection employees who share their information have. Are these online programs and mobile applications able to share personal information about the people using the resources?

An article from Friday, October 2nd by Jay Hancock, discusses the city of Houston and the encouragement of employees to use one of these online wellness companies as a way to track health changes. The privacy agreement that accompanied this partnership was frustrating to many employees who were wary about sharing their person information, as it was unclear as to how much and what information could have been shared with other companies and potentially the public. Although employees were able to opt out of the program, they were then forced to pay an extra $300 per year for medical coverage. This lack of communication about the privacy and protection of information shared with this company sparked concern from several employees and therefore was not widely accepted among the residents of Houston.

The implementation of these wellness-tracking programs argue that it is an efficient and effective way to hold employees accountable for staying healthy. A healthy employee arguably performs to the best of his/her ability because his/her body is being taken care of properly. These programs also help companies interpret the data collected and make changes to the work environment based on the information gathered. As the U.S. continues to become one of the unhealthiest countries in the world, these wellness programs could be the answer to holding people accountable and making Americans healthier people.

Should employees be forced to sign up for wellness programs in order to promote their own health? How much privacy is acceptable for wellness programs to provide to the people who subscribe to their services? Is the implementation of wellness programs in the work place an efficient and ethically sound decision for companies to make based on the unhealthy state of our country?