Category: Obesity trends

Obesity is community issue, requires policy changes, UGA professors say


Communication Strategies for Obesity Management, Obesity Policy, Obesity trends

Obesity is now so prevalent that it must be addressed as a social and political responsibility, not just an individual issue, three University of Georgia professors agree.

The professors were part of a panel discussion following a screening of part of HBO’s “Weight of the Nation” at the Tate Theater on Wednesday evening.

The Georgia Public Health Training Center and National Association of Chronic Disease Directors teamed up to present the documentary.

“It’s important not to blame the individual but to work as a community — all the places we live, work, and play — to support each other to find community-drive solutions,” said Marsha Davis, an associate professor of health promotion and behavior. “People in Athens live in food deserts, and we need to continue to assure that people have access and can afford fresh produce.”

Obesity has reached crisis levels, noted Karen Hilyard, an assistant professor of health promotion and behavior with experience in health communication.

“We need a wake-up call. I can’t believe we’re working on any other issue in public health right now because of its wide-reaching impact across all areas,” she said. “This problem fits the definition of a crisis, but why aren’t more people outraged?”

Unlike a natural disaster, obesity and its long-term risks are perceived differently, she explained. But we need to change the way we talk about obesity.

“We need to re-frame the issue from one of personal responsibility to one that’s a community issue. It affects not just our health but our economy, health care costs, and even national security,” Hilyard said. “We can’t expect to survive as a country if we have a crippled workforce that can’t handle physically demanding jobs. Policymakers must consider what obesity means for the future of our country.”

Ultimately, it starts with this generation, added Connie Crawley, a registered dietician and Cooperative Extension associate.

“As a young person in your 20s, you’re probably at your lowest weight for the rest of your life,” she said. “You’re in the prime situation to make decisions now that will influence your future weight and your future family.”

From the American Academy of Pediatrics Prevention Plus recommendations, Crawley listed several goals to reduce obesity in America:

  • Screen time: Remove screens (TV, video games, computers) from bedrooms and reduce viewing time to two hours per day.
  • Sugary drinks: Take them out of your diet! This includes 100% juice, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
  • Physical activity: Some sort of activity 60 minutes per day. It doesn’t have to be all at once or planned exercise.
  • Sleep: Newest on the block of recommendations, sleep helps your metabolism and reduces your chances of making poor decisions about eating and activity when tired. Plus, you’ll eat more and drink caffeine to stay awake.
  • Breakfast: Eat it. It increases your metabolism after fasting while you sleep. For children, however, we must ensure they are not eating breakfast both at home and at school.
  • Eating at home: Do this 5-6 days per week. Fewer Americans have decent cooking skills. But if we can educate children and adults how to make a few healthy, simple meals, it’ll make all the difference.

“Even if families or individuals select one to work on each year, they’d be a different person in six years,” Crawley said. “These key points will seriously impact your long-term health. You are as much at risk as the people in the film.”

The film is available at

Will half of America be obese in 20 years?


Obesity in the News, Obesity trends

That’s what studies are showing. CDC stats in 2011 already showed 20.7 percent obesity in Colorado to 34.9 percent in Mississippi, so it’s probably not far off the mark.

Breaking news posted by the Associated Press, featured in the Athens Banner-Herald:

A new report forecasts a sharp rise in obesity in every American state over the next 20 years, though Georgia is projected to remain in the middle of the pack.

The research by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates that if current trends continue, 13 states would have obesity rates higher than 60 percent by 2030; 39 states would have rates topping 50 percent; and every state would exceed 40 percent.

In Georgia, the analysis found that 53.9 percent of adults would be obese, up from 28 percent now. Mississippi would remain the fattest state, with two-thirds of adults being obese. Colorado would be thinnest at 44 percent.

The American Council on Science and Health looked at the report and also found a correlation between fruit/veggie consumption and physical activity with obesity, which makes sense:

Seven of the 10 states with the highest percentage of obese residents were in the bottom tier for fruit and vegetable consumption. In fact, Mississippi (34.9 percent), Louisiana (33.4 percent), and West Virginia (32.4 percent) topped the list for obesity — and yes, their residents also had the lowest fruit and vegetable consumption. In West Virginia, for example, only 7.9 percent of residents consumed the recommended servings of fruits and veggies.

The same goes for exercise. States where people reported engaging in the most physical activity beyond their regular jobs included Colorado, Utah, and California, and these states also have the lowest obesity rankings. Colorado, for instance, holds the top spot for (relatively) slimmest state, with only 21 percent of its residents reported as obese.

“Having an unhealthy lifestyle clearly increases the likelihood of being obese,” says ACSH’s Dr. Ruth Kava. “This report suggests that substituting fruits and vegetables for other items in one’s diet, combined with regular physical activity, could help prevent or combat obesity,” she noted.

“Of course it’s simplistic to say that only fruits and veggies correlate with obesity rates,” adds Dr. Ross. “Increased fruit and vegetable consumption might also correlate with increased education, income, etc. Clearly, multiple factors are involved.”