HBO’s new comprehensive,
multi-part documentary series The Weight of the
Nation cast a very sobering light on the state of
America’s health and the consequences of the
continual expansion of our waistlines.
The four-part series, developed by HBO in association
with the Institute of Medicine and the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, takes
an exhaustive look at the current obesity epidemic
in the U.S., in which more than two-thirds of U.S.
adults aged 20 and over are overweight or obese
and nearly one-third of the nation’s children and adolescents
age two to 19 are overweight or obese.
The first part of the four-part series deals with
the consequences of the country’s obesity problem
through a series of medical expert testimonies and
distressing statistics wrapped around real-life profiles
of people on the frontlines of the epidemic.
The special doesn’t sugarcoat the effects of
chronic obesity and its links to heart disease, high
blood pressure and, in particular, diabetes.
In one of the more sobering points in the film,
experts note that almost 26 million Americans have
diabetes and 79 million Americans are pre-diabetic,
with a child born in 2000 having a one-in-three
lifetime chance of having diabetes. For African-
American and Hispanic children, the chances are
one in two.
The film also outlines the toll the epidemic is
having on the economy, with obesity-related health
care costs weighing in at some $147 billion annually,
and $1,400 in additional costs to care for
someone who is obese.
A spotlight is cast on Bogalusa, La., which in
the early 1970s conducted the first investigation
linking early childhood weight problems with
adult heart disease. A profile of obese schoolbus
driver Cindy Roach shows the struggle that
overweight people face in trying to lose weight
and become healthier in the face of a fast food
world as well as the often unhealthy cooking
habits ingrained in our culture.
In scenes not for the squeamish, the special
also shows in graphic fashion the damage obesity
can do to internal organs like the heart and
the liver. The film also makes the link between
obesity and poverty and how where you live and
how much money you have often determines
whether you have access to healthy foods or
cheap but body-fattening fast foods.
The Weight of the Nation: Consequences also
begins to lay the groundwork for some constructive
solutions for the problem and serves as an
informative lead-in to the four part series, which
also includes Choices, Children in Crisis and