Alabama is the third-fattest state in the land, according to the latest report on obesity rates. But the news isn't all bad

August 26, 2008
by Editorial
Birmingham News

our slip in the rankings isn't matched by a similar slide on the scales. Our obesity rate hasn't come down; indeed, no state's has. But unlike perennially top-ranked Mississippi and West Virginia, which waddled past us to the No. 2 spot, Alabama was one of a dozen or so states that didn't have a statistically significant increase in obesity rates over last year, according to the "F as in Fat" report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. ... The new report focused on public policies targeting obesity and how they are failing to get the job done. Alabama's record on that front is hit-or-miss. The state passed a law to bolster physical activity in schools, but didn't include any meaningful way to enforce it. On the other hand, it did better on legislation requiring school meals to exceed the U.S. Agriculture Department's nutrition standards. The report recommends a range of steps governments can take to encourage healthier lifestyles, from requiring public and private insurers to cover nutrition counseling for children and adults, to building parks, sidewalks and bike lanes to facilitate exercise. The findings make clear that obesity hasn't commanded the attention it deserves as a bona fide health crisis. "Even though communities have started taking action, considering the scope of the problem, the country's response has been severely limited," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health. "For significant change to happen, combating obesity must become a national priority." Alabamians need to take this report to heart. Considering our past, No. 3 might not sound half-bad. But when you're talking about a huge health problem that wrecks and shortens lives, it's not anywhere good enough.

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