Group Warns of Military Obesity

Nonprofit calls problem an issue of readiness and health
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2023 2:25 PM CDT
Most Active Service Members Are Overweight, Report Says
Army Staff Sgt. Daniel Murillo, right, runs uphill as part of his physical training at Ft. Bragg in January in Fayetteville, North Carolina.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

The majority of US active duty service members register as overweight or obese, according to their body mass index, a nonprofit's report says. "At a time when we are struggling to recruit an adequate labor force for the military, the growing rates of obesity are especially alarming," said Matthew Wallin of the American Security Project, who raised concerns about the help service members receive, per the Military Times. "No person defending our country should find themselves unsupported and unequipped to fight a personal battle against obesity," he said.

The problem has worsened in the general population, as well; more than half of young people in the US qualify as obese, and weight is the top reason recruits are disqualified. Obesity in the military increased during the pandemic, per the AP. Defense Department data shows the obesity rate has gone from 10% to about 21% in the past decade. The calculation considers age, height, and weight. The American Security Project's report, which said more than two-thirds on active duty are overweight, argues that military readiness is affected and that the problem should be treated as a health issue.

"It isn't a moral failing; it's a health crisis," the report says. "Framing obesity as an issue of insufficient willpower or discipline prevents soldiers from seeking and receiving treatment, makes commanders and healthcare workers less inclined to intervene, and worsens health outcomes across the services." Service members dealing with weight issues should be sent to a doctor for assessment, not just have it put on their record, the nonprofit maintains. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, who co-wrote a past report on the issue, has called it "a dramatic national security problem," per the Army Times. (More US military stories.)

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