Walmart joining in the Michelle Obama obesity fight makes a formidable team.
Obesity is a gigantic problem in America. Walmart announced last week that they are going to focus on several aspects of making getting healthier food options at their stores more affordable and more decipherable. In addition they are committing to placing stores in underserved inner city “food deserts,” areas where there is little or no access to full grocery stores and where residents are left buying unhealthy foods at high prices at small convenience stores. I don’t know if this program will make a difference.
The issues of obesity are complex and so far have eluded simple solutions. Still with the nation’s largest food retailer pushing their suppliers to make mass market packaged foods healthier, and labeled more clearly can’t hurt. Walmart has enormous market power with their suppliers. They have been extremely successful in forcing conformity and getting price concessions in other lines of business, and I have little doubt that if they really want to they can influence food suppliers to produce healthier products at affordable prices for them to sell. Maybe this will be a tipping point as Michelle Obama suggests.
In 2008-2009 26.7% of adult Americans and 16.9% of children were obese. In my practice I have to say that I see relatively few patients who are even close to ideal body weight. This varies from state to state. To see how your state fares check this animated map on the CDC site. BMI is far from the whole story, but it’s a quick and dirty way to check to see if you are in a normal, overweight, or obese weight range. Use this widget to check your BMI now if you like:
Getting the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables down as well as reducing the cost and increasing the availability of healthier packaged foods at one major US grocery retailer has to influence their competitors to follow suit. Look at what happened when Walmart started selling $4./ month generic medications. Target, Fred Meyer, Costco and many other retail pharmacies raced to compete.
I’m excited that Michelle Obama has taken on such an important problem as her area of influence as First Lady. I’m happy that Walmart has chosen to try to be leaders in this fight for the health of Americans. Will this really make a difference? Who knows, but don’t underestimate the power of Walmart. Most that have in the past are now out of business or chasing them to catch up.
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