Fast food accessibility is a public health issue

by Karlene Sanchez, Contributor

The accessibility of fast food restaurants in America has become a public health issue.

Americans are never out of options.

For example, wherever I go, it’s not difficult finding a nearby McDonald’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., or an In-N-Out along the way.

All of these restaurants which contain a fast food menu for jumbo burger meals, although not the best source of nutrients, they are delicious, especially for Americans.

On average, adults in the U.S. consumed 11.3 percent of their total daily calories from fast food between 2007 and 2010, according to a National Center for Health Statistics data brief published in 2013.

Seven states in the US, including Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, hold 35 percent or more of obesity rates within their population.

The fact is, the accessibility of unhealthy fast food restaurants is higher than the accessibility of healthier food restaurants, which makes it easier for people to choose what is most accessible and convenient to them.

That being said, Americans are currently approaching 40 percent obesity rates, after holding 34-35 percent between 2005 and 2012, according to the American Medical Association.

Obesity rates increasing is an issue because it shows Americans are not taking precaution when considering their health and the fast food restaurants that surround us on a daily basis aren’t quite helpful.

As these rates increase, we must take action.

As stated by the World Health Organization, public health is defined as “the art and science of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts of society.”

Public health focuses on the entire spectrum of health and wellbeing, not only the elimination of certain diseases.

Although some fast food restaurants do offer healthier options, most of the food they offer is high in calories, unsaturated fats, sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates, without offering options such as fruits or vegetables.

Now, as affordable and accessible as these fast food chains are, what is not being considered enough is the potential risk factors on the health of individuals.

Americans, including myself, can be found guilty of going for what is affordable and accessible, especially when school, work, and homework become difficult to manage. There are times when it becomes difficult to make a run to a grocery store and buy the necessary groceries needed to cook healthy meals.

Food plays one of the biggest roles in the lives of human beings, providing the nutrients and energy we need to be healthy. It’s what allows us to stay energized throughout the day and has a great impact on our health and our overall well being.

California, as well as other states that have high obesity rates, should consider making a policy for creating healthier fast food restaurants.

These healthier fast food restaurants should include healthier cooking methods and be as accessible and convenient to Americans as a McDonald’s would be.

Obesity rates among the world population aren’t only linked to poor eating decisions, but also linked to a lack of the necessary physical activity.

Obesity occurs from an energy imbalance. An imbalance which is between calories consumed and calories expended when used as energy by the body.

When the calorie intake exceeds the amount burned, then the amount of energy left over is stored as fat and increases the chance of weight gain and obesity.

What we could be working to create is building infrastructure towards healthier fast-food restaurants and alternatives that are available and convenient for all demographics.

We should be promoting public health and preventing diseases by making sure people are educated on what their foods contain and how certain foods affect their bodies, as well as, by making drastic changes to our diets now, before chronic diseases arise.

We can also work to make those around us aware of this public health issue by educating them on what the risks could be of making poor food choices and encourage a healthier lifestyle early on to avoid complications later.

In addition, we can work to encourage our family members to help us make better decisions because as we know, food choices of individuals don’t only depend on behavior; but on cultural, environmental, and socioeconomic influences as well.

We are in this together, and we will improve when we begin by making the slightest changes in our diets.

Slowly but surely, we will create a healthier society.


Karlene Sanchez is a junior studying journalism.