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Shelby County obesity, diabetes rates increase despite five-year health effort

April 5, 2009
by Mary Powers
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Five years into an ambitious effort to improve local health, the rates of obesity and diabetes in Memphis and Shelby County are still rising.

"We are disappointed," Dr. James Bailey said of the results from the most recent telephone poll conducted for the Healthy Memphis Common Table. Bailey, an internal medicine specialist, was among the public and private health, government and business leaders who in 2003 helped launch the nonprofit consortium.

Yet evidence suggests Americans just keep getting heavier.

Even Colorado and Hawaii, states traditionally home of America's slimmest adults, saw obesity rates climb for a second straight year. That is according to the latest report on obesity in the U.S. from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Dr. Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Trust for America's Health, has long argued for a national strategy. He said piecemeal efforts that rely on individual change in social isolation aren't the answer.

"It has to do with changing community norms and expectations. Quick fixes won't work," he said.

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