New report offers more bleak news for state of Indiana's weight
August 19, 2012
by Zach Osowski
Courier & Press (Evansville)
A survey released last week by the Trust for America's Health foundation shows America's population is getting bigger: around the waist. Indiana is no exception. The study ranked the Hoosier state as the eighth fattest state in the nation. Last year, Indiana was 15th.
This year Trust for America's Health used a new method for measuring obesity rates so it is unclear exactly how much the percentages rose. What is clear is that Indiana bellies have grown enough to surpass Kentucky, Texas, Missouri, Ohio, North Carolina and Tennessee in just a year.
Just a few years ago, Mississippi, which still leads the nation with a 35 percent obesity rate, was the only state with a rate higher than 30. Now 12 states have a percentage above 30 and six additional states are less than one percentage point away from hitting that number. Colorado is the nation's least obese state with a ranking of 20.7 percent.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin likens this epidemic to the days when tobacco use was much more prevalent. It took years and years of education before people finally cut back on smoking.
"All these studies come out saying how bad this is for you but it doesn't seem like anyone is doing anything about it," Larkin said. "It takes a real cultural change."
Some of the risks are alarming. Larkin said studies predict in the future a third of American children will be overweight and more susceptible to childhood diabetes. The most likely ailment for obese adults is adult on-set diabetes which occurs when the body can't make enough insulin to keep up with demand. Larkin said that the human body just isn't meant to operate when overweight. The heart has to work overtime leading to cardiovascular problems. Bones and joints also wear down faster when carrying around extra pounds.
Larkin said that the situation doesn't seem to be getting better.
"Indiana still has a long way to go," Larkin said. "There have been a lot of steps in the right direction as far as more access to parks and fitness centers but we're still not seeing a lot of positive signs."
Larkin said the change won't come from a doctor who tells people they need to lose weight or how bad being overweight is for them. He said it's going to take the efforts of community leaders to educate people on exercise and healthy eating and to encourage people to live better.
Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke has made it one of his policies to try and fight obesity in the Evansville area. A Gallup poll released in 2011 ranked Evansville as the fattest city in the nation per capita and now it appears that the state as a whole is catching up.
While it is too early to tell if Winnecke's healthy living programs will help reverse the trend at all, spokeswoman Ella Johnson-Watson said the mayor and his office have been encouraged by the turnout at recent, healthy inspired events.
"We're very happy with the response we're getting after only a couple programs," Johnson-Watson said. "So far, the feedback has been all positive."
But positive feedback is one thing, getting people to put down their Big Macs and large Cokes for good is another matter entirely. The fight to preserve America's waistline is about making changes in individual's lifestyles. That's why most of the mayor's events have included some type of demonstration on healthy cooking to teach people how to use healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in their meals.
The mayor also took another step toward giving the citizens of his town better eating options when he asked all the vendors at Evansville's Fall Festival to offer at least one healthy option on their menu.
In a festival known for fried brain sandwiches and deep fried Oreos, it's hard to imagine vendors offering salads or turkey burgers. Simply offering customers a healthy option doesn't mean they will order it but the mayor is making an effort to cut back on the calories Evansville residents consume, which Larkin said is the first step.
According to County Health Rankings data, Vanderburgh County is in the middle of the pack as far as county statistics in Indiana.
Vanderburgh County has an obesity rate of 29 percent, slightly below the national average of 30 percent and Indiana's overall average at 31 percent. The county even ranks below Warrick (32 percent) and Posey (31 percent) but ahead of Gibson County (28 percent).
To put that in perspective on a statewide level, Madison and Crawford Counties tied for the highest obesity rate at 37 percent while Hamilton County came in at the lowest with a 22 percent rate.
The study also showed that Vanderburgh's obesity rate has gone down since last year.
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