A new HBO series addresses the nation's obesity problem

May 11, 2012

Michigan ranks tenth in the country, when it comes to the number of people who are overweight or obese. It's an issue that affects many of us personally, and it affects society as a whole.

A new HBO, documentary series called  The Weight of the Nation takes an in-depth look at this epidemic. It's in partnership with the Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

John Hoffman is an HBO producer who worked on the documentary. The documentary recently screened in Detroit. He says, "We’ve got to engage the entire nation in addressing obesity. Almost 70% of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, and the costs are just going to bankrupt our health care system. Our national security is threatened when one quarter of recruits can’t qualify for our military service because they are overweight or obese…so, we are trying to sound the loudest possibly alarm in every community that this has got to become a priority."

Obesity seems to hit minorities and poor people especially hard. Hoffman says it's a matter of economics and not race. 

"Certain races in our country are harder hit by economic issues. So, the ability of people to have access to good health care, access of safe places to run, walk, play, these hit disadvantaged communities more hard. And so, when thinking about addressing obesity we really got to renovate our communities. Its tough economic times, it’s hard thinking about renovating our communities when we are trying to stay employed and get food on the table," he says.

Talking about the problem of obesity can be a sensitive subject. It's about people's lives and their bodies and their choices. How do you address this subject in a way that remains kind and steers clear of blaming people?

"That was in the forefront of our thinking at all times," Hoffman says. "We talked to people across the country who were willing to go on camera and talk honestly about what their lives are like as someone who is overweight or obese, how it affects their relationships, how it affects their health, how it affects their employment, and these testimonies are throughout the series."

The Weight of the Nation premieres May 14 and 15, on HBO.