We need to address growing obesity epidemic

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Thank goodness for Arkansas. And West Virginia, Mississippi and Louisiana.
Those are the only four states with a higher obesity rate than Alabama, according to information in “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” the report released recently by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation.
At 33.5 percent, Alabama is the fifth most obese state in the nation, trailing Arkansas by only .4 percent.
By comparison in Colorado, the least obese state, only 21.3 percent of the residents are considered medically obese.
Sadly, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the obesity epidemic in America — and even more poignantly, in the South. And it won’t likely be the last.
The increase of obesity in America is a real concern. According to the Trust’s data, obesity rates in America have tripled in some states – including Colorado – since 1990.
It seems even though we have been focused on spreading the news about the dangers and risks associated with obesity, Americans are getting fatter and less fit.
And that spells double concern.
Obesity is a major risk factor in adult diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, some cancers and other illnesses. And obesity – and the subsequent health issues – cost taxpayers and the health care industry billions of dollars each year.
So what is to be done?
We can continue, of course, to try to spread the gospel message – eat less, exercise more. But in a culture and society that encourages a sedentary lifestyle – whether in front of computer screens at work or TV screens in the evening – that continues to be a challenge.
And the abundance of readily accessible convenience food – quick, fast, calorie-laden and filled with sodium and fat – can be more of a curse than a blessing, when you consider the long-term effects on health and weight.
Here in the South – in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and all around us – our relationship with food is a complicated one. It is at the core of who we are – Sunday suppers and casseroles for friends in need – and we relish the slower pace spent around the table and with family and friends.
But we also need to relish our health, as well.
We wish we knew the answer to the magic formula that would shift the culture’s focus to health and healthy choices, but we don’t,
We do know, just like the study’s results reiterate, that our nation needs to address the growing obesity epidemic. For all our sakes.

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