Tuesday, November 03, 2015

High obesity rates in South, Midwest costing taxpayers; state plans promote healthier living

High obesity rates are costing taxpayers and leading some states to adopt plans to tackle the problem to create healthier communities, Teresa Wiltz reports for Stateline. "Obesity-related health problems cost $147 billion to $210 billion each year, according to the State of Obesity. Obesity is also associated with diminished productivity on the job and with work absenteeism, costing the country $4.3 billion per year, according to the report."

"Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher, is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. and can cause a host of chronic health issues, from diabetes to high blood pressure to cancer," Wiltz writes. Nearly one third of U.S. adults—78 million—are obese, up nearly 50 percent since 1990, according to Health Intelligence, a health data analysis site. Seven of the top 10 most obese states are in the South, and 23 of the top 25 are in the South or Midwest, led by Arkansas with an obesity rate of 35.9 percent.

Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson "last month launched a 10-year plan to combat the problem in his state, from tightening nutritional standards in schools to creating more walkable communities and improving access to affordable, healthy foods," Wiltz writes. "Governors in New York (27 percent adult obesity), Georgia (30.5 percent) and Tennessee (31.2 percent) have all announced plans to combat high rates of obesity among their citizens."

"Race, class, culture and ethnicity play a big role in obesity. American Indians and Native Alaskans have the highest rates of adult obesity, at 54 percent, according to the Trust for America’s Health," Wiltz writes. "Among African-Americans, 47.8 percent are obese, while 42.5 percent of Latinos are obese. Asian-Americans have the lowest rates of obesity at 10.8 percent, while 32.6 percent of whites are obese. Research suggests that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be obese." (Read more)

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