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Missouri's Obesity Rate is Skyrocketing

A recent study discovered that America’s obesity epidemic has begun to reach a boiling point.  The report also shows that Missouri has the 11th highest obesity rate in the nation at 30.3%.  KSMU’s Justin Lux has more.

 The study was conducted by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

 16 years ago, the obesity rate in Missouri was about half of what it is today.  This leads Cox Health dietician, David Dade, to question the toxic environment we continue to live in.

 “The portion sizes in restaurants to the options of healthy foods in restaurants.  We’re a fast-food busy nation, there’s just high-fat, high-calorie foods everywhere.  Portions are big, we don’t do near enough physical activity or physical labor.  That’s the way generations are kind of grown-up,” Dade explains.

 Dr. Lance Luria the Vice President and Medical Director at Mercy Health and Wellness, says the obesity epidemic is also partly due to education.

“I think education plays a role, but it’s got to be a different kind of education.  It’s got to be an education that really motivates them to not want to do what they are doing today,” Luria says.

 Luria says Americans must continue to be shown what goes into the unhealthy foods they’re consuming.

 “They have to look at food in a way that becomes repugnant to them or something that’s really offensive and unless you do that you can’t compete broccoli with a Big Mac,” he says.

 One of the biggest issues, Luria says, is the unconscious addiction that’s created by many of the foods in the fast food industry.

 “If you put sugar, fat and salt in foods, unbeknownst to the person eating them, it drives them to want to eat more and more of it and drives them to come back to the table,” explains Luria.

 The Healthy Living Alliance is a new organization in the Springfield area working to fight obesity.  The alliance works to connect many of the existing health partners in the community with people who have needs in this area.  Allison Wilson is a program coordinator with the HLA.

 “We really want to hear from the people that are struggling with this issue so we’re going to be doing assessments in the work place, surveys, focus groups.  Hearing from them what they see as their barriers to overcoming this issue and then based on that we want to take those health gaps and connect them with different programs in town,” Wilson says.

 For the first time, this year’s study examined the obesity epidemic over the last two decades. Colorado’s current obesity rate of 19.8%, which is the lowest in the country today, would have been the highest rate in 1995.  Also, twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15%. Now, 38 states have obesity rates over 25%.

 And for the seventh year in a row, Mississippi ranked as the most obese state in the country at 34.4%.

 For KSMU News, I’m Justin Lux.