Editorial: No gain, less pain
September 29, 2012
News & Record (Greensboro, NC)
According to the latest numbers on obesity, the Bible Belt may require some considerable loosening in coming years to make room for expanding waist lines.
The South’s weight problems will be especially acute, with top-ranked Mississippi (67 percent), Tennessee (63 percent), Alabama (63 percent), South Carolina (63 percent), Louisiana (62 percent) and Arkansas (61 percent) taking six of the top 10 spots nationally in the projections. All told, 39 states will exceed 50 percent in obesity rates, the report forecasts.
The predictions are based on phone surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as actual weight and height measurements of some respondents. North Carolina ranked 19th in expected weight gain while our neighbors to the north in Virginia fared much better, ranking 40th in obesity growth, but still are expected to tip the scales with a 50 percent obesity rate by 2030.
If current trends hold, 42 percent of all Americans could be obese by 2030. All of this despite attempts to promote wellness programs, healthier school lunch menus and exercise.
New York City has gone a step further — arguably too far — by banning supersized sweet soft drinks. But the results of two new clinical trials published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine add credence to the belief that sugary sodas play a significant role in childhood obesity. And many of our young people are in the throes of a full-blown health crisis, especially those in poverty. In 2010, 15.4 percent of children ages 2 to 4 enrolled in federal nutrition programs or seen in child health clinics in Guilford County were obese.
Meanwhile, we are struggling to help ourselves, with limited success. We’ve paved miles of scenic biking and walking trails in Greensboro, but how to get more people to use them? School lunch menus may include healthier options, but how to get children to choose them?
The Guilford County Department of Health has begun such initiatives as a community garden and classroom education on healthier eating. It also has partnered with UNCG and the Warnersville community to provide access to healthy, locally grown produce.
Meanwhile, as the nation continues to debate the best approach to effective health care reform, one obvious solution is getting a better handle on the country’s epidemic weight gain. Annual medical expenses for weight-related illnesses such as stroke, diabetes and heart disease are expected to reach $66 billion over the next two decades.
One of the best reforms of all shouldn’t come from Washington; it should come from communities committing to reform unhealthy lifestyles, one person at a time.
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