"As a society, what we should be doing is encouraging activity in our daily routines," Jacobson said. "Ironically, the obstacle to that is the automobile. So what we really need to think about is how we use cars. What we really have to do is look at the system of issues that affect obesity, and come up with a national policy that covers all of these issues to address obesity. If we try to solve these societal problems in a vacuum, we will continue to get poor outcomes and make limited progress in addressing these issues."
To push the limits of their analysis, Jacobson and his team hypothesized how obesity could be eliminated completely through driving less.
"To completely eliminate obesity, every driver would have to reduce their driving by about 12 miles per day, which is around a third of the average daily miles traveled in the United States," Jacobson said. "But here's the catch: We have to still do everything we are currently doing."
How do we continue to do what we have been doing and still eliminate obesity?
"It's effectively impossible," Jacobson said. "But if every licensed driver reduced their travel by one mile per day, in six years the adult obesity rate would be 2.16 percent lower. In other words, almost 5 million fewer adults would be classified as obese based on the 2007 adult population. At the aggregate, if we drive less, not only will our carbon footprint be smaller, we will also lose more weight as a nation."
Ultimately, Jacobson said, we are going to have to rethink the way we use our automobiles if we want to address obesity.
"We have had 60-plus years of infrastructure that has facilitated the obesity epidemic," he said. "How do you turn that around overnight? You don't. But you can make some changes. I am not convin
|Contact: Phil Ciciora|
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign