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They are also societal and cultural issues due to their costs to society. The medical aspect is not just one of taking up hospital and doctor time and effort, but of reducing the amount of productive time of the people who smoke or are obese. Culturally, smoking and obesity are issues related to money--the poor are more likely to smoke and to be obese, and marketing of both cigarettes and unhealthy food takes that into account.
I'll use the case of obesity.
Obesity is of course a major health problem for Americans today. But if you think about it, the reasons why we are obese are much more societal and cultural than they are medical. Some ways that our society/culture encourage us to be obese:
- Many families now have both parents working. This encourages people to buy fast food as well as quickly-prepared foods from grocery stores. These foods are generally much less healthy.
- Most people have sedentary jobs and the bulk of our entertainment is sedentary. So the things that our society/culture encourage us to do help to make us fatter.
So reducing obesity would have to be done by changing the pressures our society puts on us rather than by any medical procedure.
That is a great request. There are always cultural and societal variables that are important. If you consider smoking, society, insome ways, encourages it, at least in the past by advertising and commercials. We don't see this today as much, but still smoking and the connotations that it is "cool" to smoke is still in movies. Also tobacco companies are very powerful and have a lot of clout in politics.
As for obesity, just consider all the restaurants in America that serve unhealthy foods - pizza hut, burger king, etc. They are relatively cheap. Try to get a good salad and it is hardly affordable! What does society say about this?
I believe that a critical component of this thesis would be suggesting how our culture and society might encourage smoking or obesity. Certainly, there is much to indicate that things are changing. About thirty or forty years ago, smoking was something that was glamorized in its depiction in film and at social events. This has changed in the last fifteen to twenty years. Part of this has been brought about by legislation and litigation of cigarette companies. The issue of obesity is one that has only gained traction over the last half a decade, perhaps a bit longer. There is an encouragement of poor eating habits with the cultural importance of fast food and junk food. These realities do not immediately translate to obesity, but they are social truths that have to be addressed in dealing with obesity. Another element which has relevance is our social dependence on technology. The proliferation of computers, gaming consoles, and information technology have helped to transform childhood and adolescence into a more "indoors based" reality, where kids have more diversion from physical activity, which can contribute to childhood obesity.
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