More work needed to reduce U.S. obesity rate

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Efforts to reduce obesity in the U.S. are making some progress, but, as a nation we continue to pack on the pounds and put our overall health at risk.

A report out last week from the Trust For America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation noted that every state except Colorado has an obesity rate of 20 percent or more. 

In a dozen states, the obesity rate is above 30 percent. South Carolina’s obesity rate rose to 30.9 percent in 2010, and 66.4 percent of people in the state are overweight. South Carolina remained the nation’s eighth fattest state, while Mississippi topped the list with 34.4 percent of its residents listed as obese, according to the report.

Compare that to previous data in the study, which notes that in 1995 Colorado would have had the highest obesity rate. And even as recently as 2006, only Mississippi was above 30 percent.

The study uses body mass index to indicate obesity. Experts agree the system isn’t perfect, but say that it is the easiest way to measure large groups. Body mass index is calculated by using a person’s weight and height.

While the overall statistics show that we continue to add to our national weight, some bright spots, according to the study, include fewer states reporting increases over the previous year and experts say the rate of increase is slowing.

Educational efforts on the negative health impacts of obesity, an emphasis on the importance of exercise and more information regarding the foods we eat have all contributed to a greater awareness among the population.

Obesity is also tied to many negative health impacts, which contributes to rising health-care costs to help take care of the growing population’s needs.

While some decry government regulations such as the Obama administration’s push to make school lunches healthier, advancing healthy lifestyles in schools gets kids into the habit earlier in life, and as a result, they have a better chance of continuing that lifestyle as they grow older.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to determine their own lifestyle. Most foods, even if they aren’t good for you, are OK in moderation, especially if they are just a small part of a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Results from the latest survey show more people are paying attention to their overall health and, perhaps, adopting more habits that will help them lead long, active and healthy lives for years to come. But the progress is slow and, as the study shows, we still have a long way to go in our efforts to curb obesity.


 Carroll County Times editorial on obesity in America. The Westminster, Md., newspaper is a sister paper to The Lancaster News. Both are owned by Landmark Community Newspapers Inc.