Obesity is the leading cause of why 73 percent of young Kentucky adults are ineligible for military service, according to a report released Monday.
The report was done by Mission: Readiness, an organization made up of retired high-ranking military officials advocating for for “smart investments in America’s children.”
Retired Major Gen. Allen Youngman, who discussed the report during the Southern Obesity Summit in Louisville, said Kentuckians‘ rate of ineligibility due to obesity, lack of education and criminal background is three percent higher than the national rate of 70 percent.
Obesity presents a major challenge, Youngman said.
“They don’t have to be in perfect shape when they come in, but to pass a certain point it’s been demonstrated over and over again that it would be doing them a disservice and a disservice to the military to put them into uniform and expect them to meet the standards,” Youngman said.
Obesity doesn’t just affect potential recruits.
Twelve percent of active duty service members are obese, the report said.
Between 2002 to 2011, obesity among active duty members increased 61 percent. Every year more than $1.5 billion is spent in obesity-related health conditions and recruitment replacements of the unfit, according to the report.
“Some units in Afghanistan and Iraq have actually had to send more people back to the U.S. or some place else for medical treatment because of injuries like that than because of actual combat injuries,” he said.
Youngman said that active duty members are a bigger part of civilian life now than in the past, which means when they are off duty they have the same food opportunities as everyone else.
“If they eat nothing but what’s provided through the military dining facilities they are less likely to gain weight,” he said. “But we don’t lock our soldiers up 24/7 on base and feed them only those things.
“They are products of American society and they continue to be part of our society over the years. They have the same problems as the rest of us, but what they do have is a very supportive environment for exercise more so than their civilian counterparts.”