EDITORIAL: Obese Mississippi

Mississippi ranked No. 1 Monday in a report on nationwide rates of obesity, the third consecutive year our state has topped that high-risk health category.
The study found that four states have obesity rates above 30 percent: Mississippi (32.5 percent), West Virginia (31.2 percent), Alabama (31.1 percent), and Tennessee (30.2 percent).
The survey, based on statistics for three years calculated by the federal Centers for Disease Control, was undertaken by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Its release coincided with the opening of a nationwide conference on obesity prevention in Washington.
Adult obesity rates increased in 19 states in the past year, including Mississippi, to the point that more than 10 percent of the population in seven states now has type 2 diabetes. The Mississippi rate is 11.1 percent, No. 2 nationwide.
More than 20 million adult Americans are diabetics, and prevalence has doubled over the past 10 years, from 4.8 people per 1,000 to 9.1 per 1,000. A further 57 million Americans are pre-diabetic, which means they are at high risk and likely to develop the disease in 5 to 10 years, research shows.
Adult obesity rates exceed 20 percent in 49 states and the District of Columbia. Only Colorado, where 18.9 percent of the population is obese, falls below 20 percent. No state had an obesity rate above 20 percent in 1991.
Besides the health risks – premature death, diabetes, blindness, strokes, heart disease, limb amputations, and a compromised immune system – obesity costs the average diabetic about 40 percent more in health care spending: $1,429 more per year per person, a total of $147 billion nationwide.
In Mississippi, with about one million obese residents, the additional costs total about $1.429 billion per year, spending that is a double-edged sword. Health spending drives thousands of Mississippi jobs, but a substantial portion of Mississippi residents rely primarily on Medicaid and Medicare for health coverage, which means it is borne by government/taxpayers.
An obese Medicare beneficiary spends $600 more a year on out-of-pocket drug costs than a Medicare patient of healthy weight, researchers found.
The cure for obesity, of course, largely remains one of choices, but millions need help making those right choices, and treating the damage to personal health after it’s happened.
Researchers did see a slim sign of hope: Only 23 states showed an increase in obesity rates this year, compared with 37 with higher rates in last year’s survey. The more we know, the more we will be prone to action.

NEMS Daily Journal

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