Constant is that refrain from health-care professionals and scientists who document the nation’s health. Good-ol’ Southern cooking and ingrained lifestyles have condemned Alabama to the worst parts of obesity. Amid rising rates of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, Alabamians continue to face the same choices: How motivated are they to rewrite this unfortunate yet important story?
This week, a new report, “F as in Fat,” released by the Trust for American Health and financed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a national philanthropy group that focuses on health issues, repeated the same data that we’ve heard for years. Alabama is the sixth-fattest state in the Union; Mississippi, perennially the fattest state, continues to top this ignominious list. Southern states, while not the only ones to suffer from this epidemic of obesity, again make up most of the worst offenders.
We’ll repeat it: Alabamians must be tired of hearing this.
Yet, embedded in the “F as in Fat” report was chilling information that we hope opens doubters’ eyes to the long-term severity of this problem. If these trends continue, the report said, 62 percent of Alabamians — virtually 2 of every 3 — will be obese in 18 years. Extrapolating that data, that means Alabama would see meteoric rises in the number of new cases of type 2 diabetes (1.37 million), coronary heart disease and stroke (3 million), high blood pressure (2.6 million), arthritis (1.7 million) and obesity-related cancer (410,000) in 2030, the Mobile Press-Register reported.
Treating those new cases won’t be cheap, either.
In 2030, the report said, Alabama would see a 12-percent increase in health-care costs directly related to these additional obesity-related health problems. That’s a profound and stunning revelation considering the state’s current budget woes — this week, voters approved a constitutional amendment to borrow $437 million from its trust fund and balance the General Fund — and the number of low-income and poor who rely on assistance for their health-care bills.
This new report paints a picture of Alabama that is neither kind nor reassuring. None of these headlines are new; The Star, through its editorial board and its reporting on the state’s obesity epidemic, has done its part to urge residents to take their health and that of their children seriously. Yet, this picture says too few Alabamians are heeding these warnings and making smart choices about their exercise and eating habits.
So many issues factor into obesity that it’s unfair to make generalizations. But it’s obvious that for those who have the ability to make a change, to join the ranks of the healthy, too few of them are taking the appropriate steps. The result, if it continues, will be calamity.