An annual report on national obesity trends says Mississippi remains near the bottom of the list. MPB's Ezra Wall reports as part of our series on the State of Obesity.
In recent years, Mississippi has fallen from first place to second on a nationwide list of the fattest states. But it's not because Mississippi is tightening its collective belt. In fact, the state's obesity rate has increased by nearly three percentage points over five years. Victoria Johnson is with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, who co-authors the annual State of Obesity report.
"While I think we're seeing some good things and progress happening in the south overall," says Johnson, "Mississippi is still towards the bottom in terms of obesity rates."
Johnson says the solution to the problem rests in understanding both culture and public policy.
"The community design: are communities walkable?" says Johnson. "What's happening in terms of school meals? What's happening in terms of access to snacks and physical activity after school? But a lot of it has to do with culture. In the south we know that food is love, and so how can we make simple modifications to make it healthier?"
Dr. Dan Jones is director of the Center for Obesity Research at the University of Mississippi. He says the long term health effects of obesity can be severe.
"If you're obese you'll give up five to ten years of your life, but more importantly you'll give up a lot of quality of life," says Jones. "People who are obese have more trouble with joins, they have more trouble with gall bladder disease, they have more trouble with liver disease, they have more trouble with kidney disease. Obesity is not a cosmetic issue; it is a health issue."
Researchers say obesity rates in the rest of the country show signs of leveling off.