CDC Report: Mississippi leads nation in obesity

BY DESIREE HUNTER

The Associated Press

JACKSON – A Centers for Disease Control official says if Mississippi's obesity problem isn't reduced, the state will lose more than the health of its residents.

It will also lose a lot of money to mounting health care costs associated with obesity-related problems.

According to the CDC, Mississippi leads the nation in body fat with 26.5 percent of its adult population qualifying as obese. It's also the lone state with a rate higher than 24.

Colorado is the leanest state with only 14.9 percent of its population being at least 30 pounds overweight or having a body mass index of 30 or more.

“This problem is so prevalent and so expensive that unless we integrate approaches to reduce obesity … we're not going to succeed,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. “We're going to be drowning in the costs associated with obesity.”

Dietz spoke Thursday while delivering his presentation, “Obesity in Mississippi: Policy, Environmental and Program Approaches” at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The talk was the first event for the Bower Seminar Series sponsored by UMC, the Bower Foundation and Mississippi State University.

Preventing childhood obesity, thus stopping the problem before it starts, is a prime solution, said Rica Lewis-Payton, director of the Mississippi Division of Medicaid.

According to the Research Triangle Institute based in North Carolina, obesity and overweight conditions contribute as much as $93 billion to the nation's yearly medical bill. Medicaid and Medicare pay for about half of those costs.