EDITOR'S NOTE: LOSERS WIN

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There are trends and there are trends. The word derives from a Middle English expression, trenden, meaning to revolve. In our world today, mathematics is at the basis of trends. The math of trends, of revolutions as they occur across time, sometimes contains kernels of wisdom, and at other times, the statistical result speaks a warning.

In the lexicon of business opportunity, trends are waves. Caught before they crest, the waves can build in strategic or tactical momentum and carry an organization headlong toward its objectives.

As we evolve as a people, however, trends often describe a dire arc of danger. In business and marketing, a trend is mostly a good thing to try to capture and leverage. By contrast, society's trends are often numeric lines of inevitability heading across an X and Y axis that bode catastrophe. The juxtaposition of what is going on with the awful consequence of what is going on is the kind of mathematics at work in most societal trends.

The maps on page 29 of this issue stunningly depict where societal and business trends wholly, yet disturbingly, overlap as our nation's losing battle with weight plays out. In a 10-year period, every single state slipped into a new red-flag zone as greater and greater percentages of their populations gravitated toward being overweight. On the one hand, you've got an American adult gorging his way into obesity at a rate of one every 12 seconds, and on the other, you've got a late physician's treatise on how to lose weight generating more than $200 million in annual revenue. Only in America.

In 1997, an American Demographics cover story on America's growing weight problem quoted former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop on what he would have done if he'd stayed in office longer: “I would have launched the same assault on obesity that I did on smoking.� In this issue's “Why We're Losing the War Against Obesity� by Senior Editor Louise Witt, current Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona's comment strikes an even more resonant chord: “We're making an unhealthy society for our children.� For while obesity is quickly replacing smoking as the nation's No. 1 killer, and incalculable costs to health and well-being accompany the problem, smoking is a personal choice, whereas everybody eats and children have become the most unfortunate victims of America's rampant diet disorders. As Baylor College of Medicine researcher John Foreyt says: “This may be the first generation of children who will die before their parents.�

In this issue, we resurrect our series on electorate sensibilities in “Voter 2004,� with a story of how the environment may lurk as an issue that could tip the electoral balance from red to blue in some of the critical swing states in the coming national election. We're fortunate to be working with national pollster and political expert John Zogby as we offer this series of data analyses based on surveys fielded exclusively for American Demographics.

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