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According to the report, Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the nation and is the first state whose rate exceeds 30% (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 8/28). Colorado had the lowest rate at 17.6% (AP/Long Island Newsday, 8/27). According to the Inquirer, more than two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. A body mass index of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 and above is obese (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28).
The report linked obesity to poverty, with eight of the lowest-income states appearing among the top 15 heaviest states (LoBianco, Washington Times, 8/28).
The report also looked at obesity in children ages 10 to 17 years old. Washington, D.C., had the highest rate of childhood obesity at 22.8%, and Utah had the lowest at 8.5% (AP/Long Island Newsday, 8/27). According to the Inquirer, rates of children at risk for being overweight or obese have tripled in 20 years (Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28).
Leah Devlin, health director of North Carolina -- which ranks fifth in childhood obesity nationwide -- said that there are health complications associated with being overweight and obese and that there are quality of life issues as well, including "depression, social stigma and ostracizing of obese people in our society." She said, "This is particularly true for children, who suffer from bullying and teasing in school, depression, low self-esteem -- these all impact that child's ability to succeed in school and in life" (Zagaroli, McClatchy/Raleigh News & Observer, 8/28).
Jim Marks, senior vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- which sponsored the report -- said that the current generation of children "could be the first generation to live sicker and die younger than their parents."
Marks said that obesity accounts for about $117 billion in preventable health care spending annually and is going to push the U.S. health care system to its "breaking point" (Los Angeles Times, 8/28). TAH spokesperson Laura Segal said that the group thinks the government should take action to help curb the soaring obesity rate by creating more parks, sidewalks and safe playgrounds and making lunches at public schools more nutritious. In addition, businesses should contribute with wellness programs, she said.
TAH Executive Director Jeffrey Levi said, "It's one of those issues where everyone believes this is an epidemic, but it's not getting the level of political and policymaker attention that it ought to." He added, "As every candidate for president talks about health care reform and controlling health care costs, if we don't hone in on this issue, none of their proposals are going to be affordable" (Washington Times, 8/28).
Marks said that the states with the highest rates are "where the urgency is the greatest." He continued, "They need not to wait for others to lead. They need to become leaders. It's the only way that they can restore the health of their children and their families. It's the only way that they can improve their economic competitiveness" (AP/Long Island Newsday, 8/27).
Mississippi state Rep. Steve Holland (D), chair of the Public Health Committee, said, "We've got a long way to go. We love fried chicken and fried anything and all the grease and fatback we can get in Mississippi." He added, "If we don't change our ways, we're going to be in the funeral parlors ... because we're going to be all fat and dead" (Wagster Pettus, AP/Miami Herald, 8/28).
The report is available online (.pdf).
ABC's "World News" on Monday reported on the report. The segment includes comments from Marks and Levi (McKenzie, "World News," ABC, 8/27). A video excerpt of Levi's comments is available online.
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Tuesday also reported on the report. The segment includes comments from Levi; Joshua Norman, a reporter for the Biloxi Sun Herald; and Ed Thompson, interim health director for Mississippi (Wilson, "Morning Edition," NPR, 8/28). Audio of the segment is available online.
Reprinted with kind permission from http://www.kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/healthpolicy. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation© 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.
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Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.
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