Obesity rises in the South

Obesity rises in the South

By Sarita Chourey –

South Carolina, loosen that belt buckle. Again.

The percentage of adults who have a significant weight problem has gone up.

The Palmetto State ranks No. 10 nationally, with 32.1 percent of its adult population qualifying as obese, according to State of Obesity, a project of the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

That’s an increase from rates released the previous year, 31.7 percent. There weren’t always so many obese South Carolinians. The rate was 21.1 percent in 2000 and 12 percent in 1990.

With obesity comes a greater risk of an array of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Georgia is considerably slimmer, ranking No. 19 and coming in with an obesity rate of 30.5 percent. That’s a small uptick from the previous year, which was 30.3 percent.

Meanwhile, both states represent the chronically obese South, a region replete with deep-fried customs, food-themed events,high poverty and limited access to fruits and vegetables. Still, there are worse-off states.

Data released this month show obesity rates have passed 35 percent in Arkansas, West Virginia and Mississippi, while 22 stateshave seen there rates swell above 30 percent.

Every state how has an obesity rate above 20 percent, while 45 states are above25 percent. Arkansas has the highest adult obesity rate at 35.9 percent, while Colorado has the lowest at 21.3 percent.

The State of Obesity report is formerly known as the “F as in Fat” report series. A pair of state lawmakers in South Carolina are hoping to catch unhealthy habits in school children before they lead to adult obesity.

Representatives Robert Williams and Joseph Jefferson, Democrats from Darlington and Pineville, respectively, introduced H.3850 in March.

The proposal, named The Healthy Students Act, would require that schools provide students in sixth grade through twelfth grade with at least 90 minutes of physical activity each week, to be integrated into the classroom experience throughout each school day.

“In order to build a national Culture of Health, we must help all children, no matter who they are or where they live, grow up at a healthy weight,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“We know that when we take comprehensive steps to help families be more active and eat healthier foods, we can see progress.”