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War On Obesity Part 8: Our National Pastime Fuels Obesity Epidemic

Stanley Feld M.D.,FACP,MACE

Ninety percent of the Medicare dollars are spent on the complications of chronic disease. Obesity is the cause of the onset of many chronic diseases such as Type 2 diabetes mellitus, and heart disease.
I have said there is a solution to the predicted $34 trillion dollar healthcare deficit. It is the prevention of the onset of chronic diseases. The government, corporate policies, patients, and physicians do little to prevent to onset of chronic disease or its complications.

In pursuit of the dollar Major League Baseball has outdone McDonald’s as an irresponsible corporate citizen. You will recall the relationship of McDonald’s super sized campaign and its relationship to elevating cholesterol and heart disease.

The public outcry caused McDonalds to retreat from its super sized campaign.

Baseball and gluttony, two of America’s favorite pastimes, are merging in a controversial trend taking hold at Major League Baseball stadiums across the nation: all-you-can-eat seats.”

These cheap seats were difficult to sell. Now these seats are more expensive. They are advertised as party time with all you can eat food and drink. When people go to a ballgame they want to have fun. The message is fun equals baseball, hot dogs, nachos and soda pop. In a world where the” media is the message”

Major League Baseball is playing on the emotional message of fun while promoting the Obesity Epidemic.

“Fans in these diet-busting sections, for a fixed price usually ranging from $30 to $55, are able to gorge on as many hot dogs, nachos, peanuts and soft drinks as they can stomach. Some teams charge extra for beer, desserts and candy.”

I predict all thirty major league teams will have all-you- can–eat-seats in 2009. Where are the Presidential candidates on the issue of the obesity epidemic? Can the government do anything to protect us? Can people do anything to protect themselves? Can major league baseball do anything to stop this madness?

“At least 13 of the 30 major league teams are offering all-you-can-eat seats for all or part of the 2008 season, up from six last year. Some of the teams that offered them last season are expanding their all-you-can-eat sections this season.”

I have been saying for the past 2 years that citizens have to be responsible for themselves. The corporate interest is to make as much money as it can.

No one is going to step forward and protect us from ourselves unless public outrage occurs and we have a culture change toward overeating. “People Power’ expresses itself through public outcry.

“All-you-can-eat seats, usually in distant bleacher or upper-deck sections, are allowing teams to squeeze revenue out of parts of ballparks that used to sit empty game after game, team officials say.”

It is clearly all about money. All you can eat seats is an erroneous policy decision to increase revenue. The baseball executives always have lame excuses for bad policies.

“We’re getting rid of (tickets) and making the public happy” by offering them a way to save money, says Andrew Silverman, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Texas Rangers. The Rangers saw sales of 616 seats in their stadium’s left-field corner take off last year after the seats were designated as all-you-can-eat areas.”

The public relations ploy is to put the blame on the fans and not their baseball franchise.

Mark Tilson, vice president of sales and marketing for the Kansas City Royals, says it’s up to fans to eat responsibly.
“We’re not making anybody purchase these seats, or eat seven hot dogs,” says Tilson.

Mark Tilson is correct. This is a strong reason for Americans to be responsible to themselves. If they owned their healthcare dollar they might not choose to abuse themselves especially if there was a financial incentive to take good care of their body. If they abuse their body they should be responsible financially as well as emotionally.

“What attracted me was eating as much as I could,” says Toney Fernandez, 20, of Harbor City, Calif., but “then I got hooked by the whole atmosphere:

The Dodgers began offering 3,300 right-field bleacher seats with unlimited Dodger Dogs, nachos, peanuts, popcorn, soft drinks and water. The section averaged 2,200 fans a game last season — and sold out for one-third of the team’s home games.

“Before the unlimited food and drink, such seats sold for $6 or $8, if they sold at all. Now, they go for $35 in advance and $40 for game-day tickets.”

The teams are doing it for money and not the health of their fans. The fans have eating contests.

” At the Braves’ Turner Field, some fans had hot dog eating contests, says Derek Schiller, executive vice president of sales and marketing.”

“The Royals tout their section with the slogan “Eat, drink and be merry!” At one game, a teenage boy scarfed down a dozen hot dogs, nachos and a couple of bags of peanuts.”

Ron Ranieri, general manager of concessionaire Aramark at Atlanta’s Turner Field, calculates that a typical all-you-can-eat customer downed: 3.35 hot dogs; one 20-ounce soda; one 7.9-ounce bag of peanuts; one 3-ounce order of nachos and 32 ounces of popcorn.

This translates to a caloric intake of about 4500 calories or about three times the recommended daily food intake. What is worse is that it also represents about 4 times the recommended saturated fat intake. This excessive intake increases the risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and cancer and in turn the cost of healthcare. The question is who should be responsible for this excessive food intake. Should it be the government, society or the patient? In a free country it should be the patient’s responsibly for the excessive intake.

Should the government pay for care as a result of this abuse? Should the patient be responsible for the abuse? Should a system be created so that the patient acts responsibly and not abuse to his body? My answer is yes. The system be be able to accomplish this goal is not universal healthcare coverage with a single party payer.

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