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Physician Focus: Make your move to better health

April 22, 2009
by Dr. Bruce Auerbach
Bolton Common

Massachusetts wants us to move. No, it's not about living elsewhere. It's about physical movement, as in exercising our bodies (and exercising better judgment about what we put into our bodies), pushing ourselves away from the table, and getting up off the couch more often than we do now.

The state Department of Public Health has launched Mass in Motion, a campaign targeting overweight and obesity, health problems affecting millions of people in our state and across the nation. The campaign's goals are two, simply stated, and ambitious: to decrease the number of overweight and obese adults and children and to reduce the amount of chronic disease associated with unhealthy eating and lack of exercise.

It's hard to overstate the issue or the need to act. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 66 percent of American adults over 20 years of age are overweight or obese. Of those, 32 percent are considered obese. In addition, 17 percent of adolescents 12 to 19 years of age and 19 percent of children age 6 to 11 are considered overweight. (The distinction between overweight and obese is determined by Body Mass Index, a physical measurement related to body fat. Check yours at www.cdc.gov/bmi.)

The Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in their fifth annual report "F as in Fat 2008," said that obesity rates increased in 37 states within the last year, and that no state not one saw a decrease. Obesity rates now exceed 25 percent of the population in more than half of states.

Even here in Massachusetts, a relatively healthy state compared to others, overweight and obesity are major problems, and no one seems immune. Consider these facts from DPH:

- More than half of adults and almost one-third of high-school and middle-school students are overweight or obese.

- In a survey taken between 2003-2007, Black adults were 60 percent more likely, and Hispanic adults 50 percent more likely to be obese than their white counterparts.

- Adult obesity in Massachusetts accounts for $1.8 billion in medical expenses, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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