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Critics of government action on obesity are misguided

January 5, 2011
by John David Dyche
Wilmington News Journal (Delaware)

Kentucky has America's third-highest childhood obesity rate. Should state government play a role in fighting this problem? Republican Rep. Addia Wuchner of Burlington thinks so, but is catching heat from erstwhile political friends.

In the recent report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future,” the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation named Kentucky the seventh most obese state at 30.5 percent Only Georgia and Mississippi exceed Kentucky's 21 percent childhood obesity rate.

Obesity takes a huge social toll. The Brookings Institution recently estimated U.S. obesity's annual medical, productivity, transportation and human capital costs at $215 billion per year. Obesity raises risks of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and stroke; increases employment costs from absenteeism and disability claims; requires bigger vehicles and more fuel use; and reduces quality of life.

These impacts are especially harmful in a relatively poor state like Kentucky. Medicaid covers approximately 800,000 Kentuckians, including around 60,000 children, at annual cost to taxpayers of about $6 billion.

 

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