Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Obesity rates rising: Mississippi the worst

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When I read the headline in this Yahoo! news, Obesity rates climb in most states, I took a stab at guessing the leanest and fattest states in America. My favorite state, Colorado, immediately came to mind for the fittest state. Ding, ding, ding ... that is correct! But I had no clue on the fattest state, West Virginia was a shaky guess. I heard the buzzer on that one, Mississippi became the first state to break the 30 percent barrier for obese, adult residents. But hey, I wasn't far off, West Virginia and Alabama are slightly behind the double-letter state.

Colorado has an obesity rate of 17.6. Yikes, this is the leanest state in the nation. Statistics were provided by the Trust for America's Health. They analyzed state health department-generated telephone surveys of height and weight, combining three years of data (2004-2006) for improved projections. No one denies obesity increases the risk for diabetes and chronic diseases. Jeffrey Levi, executive director, stated everyone believes obesity is an epidemic, but political and policymaker attention is lacking. Levi agrees weight is a personal choice and responsibility, but he wants societal improvements to help people make better choices, such as healthier school lunches and safer places to be active across all classes.

The report is not intended to stigmatize fat states, but motivate them to action. Is this honestly a good way to do it? We should be talking about poverty in Mississippi, not scolding them. The five poorest states were in the top 10 when it came to obesity rates. I'm sure the Mississippi fat jokes have already begun. This country loves to categorize, from Money's Best Places to Live to U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges. Now we'll be adding an obesity category to all these reports. I can see it now, some diet rag will announce the Top 100 Thinnest Universities.

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