15-State Southern Obesity Summit to Focus on Deadly Epidemic

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With Thanksgiving and end-of-the-year holidays approaching, many Americans will eat, drink and get heavier. It’s a challenging season for those working to control and reverse our nation’s obesity epidemic.

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But it’s also an opportune time to remind ourselves of the problem and discuss ideas for combating obesity, especially in children. This is organizers’ primary goal for the annual 15-state Southern Obesity Summit, to be held today through Tuesday in Alabama.

Healthcare professionals from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia will attend; many are part of obesity “state teams” scheduled to report on programs, legislation, research and other initiatives.

“Obesity is a major cause of death in the United States,” says summit organizer David Allison, PhD, director of the University of Alabama’s Clinical Nutrition Research Center. “Aside from mortality rates, however, obesity substantially increases sickness, disability and impaired quality of life. So much anti-obesity work has been done, but even more is needed, especially in the parts of the nation struggling with the epidemic like the South.”

Speakers and panelists include Kenneth Cooper, MD, a Texas-based health author and entrepreneur who is widely regarded as the “father of aerobics” for his 1986 fitness book Aerobics, and Buns of Steel fitness guru Donna Richardson Joyner.

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show nearly two-thirds of all Americans are either overweight or obese. Nine of the 10 fattest states are in the South:

State

Ranking

 Obese Adults

Alabama

3rd

30.1%

Arkansas

9th

28.1%

Florida

38th

23.3%

Georgia

11th

27.5%

Kentucky

7th

28.4%

Louisiana

4th

29.5 %

Mississippi

1st

31.7%

Missouri

13th

27.4%

North Carolina

16th

27.1%

Oklahoma

8th

28.1%

South Carolina

5th

29.2 %

Tennessee

6th

29.0%

Texas

15th

27.2%

Virginia

27th

25.2%

West Virginia

2nd

30.6%

Rankings were based on a 3-year average of state-by-state statistics for adult obesity percentages from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI: kg/m2) of 30 or more.

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