Ward-Ritacco, Christie, L
Health, Fitness, Kinesiology
In developed nations, the leading causes of death and disability are non-communicable chronic disease conditions, including cardiovascular disease, lung disease, obesity, and diabetes. Currently, individuals in Norway have a life expectancy and healthy life expectancy for men and women that ranks in the top 20 in the world, while the United States performs more poorly, with rankings in the top 50. Life expectancy in the United States may be in uenced by the fact that approximately 50% of adults live with one chronic disease condition (ie, hypertension, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, hepatitis, weak or failing kidneys, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), while the prevalence of chronic disease is lower among adults
in Norway. When speci cally evaluating prevalence of diabetes, 2015 data from the International Diabetes Federation revealed that 7.8% of adults have diabetes in Norway, while 12.8% of adults have diabetes in the United States. As obesity and physical inactivity are risk factors for chronic disease conditions, including Type 2 diabetes mellitus, it is important to note that 24.8% of Norwegians have a body mass index of greater than 30 kg/m2 and 20% meet the Norwegian Directorate of Health’s minimum physical activity recommendations, while 35% of American have a body mass index of greater than 30 kg/ m2 and 20% of Americans meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. ere may be contributing factors to the di erences in longevity and quality of life between Americans and Norwegians.
The goal of this observational study was to use a study abroad experience to compare nutrition and dietary messaging and presentation, and physical activity opportunities available to individuals living in the Northeast region of the United States and the Southeast region of Norway. First hand observational data was obtained in Tønsberg, Norway and found that less food additives are used in Norwegian food products, Norwegian healthcare laws enforce higher taxes on highly processed foods, and there are accessible modes of transportation that encourage walking and biking, encouraging Norwegians to make healthy lifestyle choices. e Scandinavian food labeling system, called the KeyHole System, visually indicates to consumers when food products are low in sugar, fat, and sodium, yet high in ber. Bicycle and walking lanes are all newly paved, separated from the main roadways, and have their own set of street signs, making opportunities for active transport safe, reliable, and highly accessible between Norwegian cities and towns. ese national policies in regards to dietary consumption and features of the built environment may contribute to Norway’s lower prevalence of chronic disease and higher life and healthy life expectancy. Additionally, Norway’s successful history involving competitive cross-country skiing, pro table salmon shing, and the everlasting popularity of hiking and outdoor exploration each contributes to a healthy lifestyle. It is important to note that there is an increasingly strong American in uence in Norway, and the growing use of food additives are having a negative impact on health outcomes in Norway. It will be interesting to observe how health outcomes progress in both the United States and Norway as the number of individuals transitioning to older adulthood continues to grow worldwide.