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Americans Getting More Active But Obesity Continues to Rise in Counties

Update Date: Jul 10, 2013 10:03 AM EDT
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Due to the global obesity pandemic, there have been numerous health initiatives and campaigns created to combat the issue. Maintaining or preventing obesity from afflicting more people is important because obesity leads to more health complications for the individuals and it also contributes to more healthcare costs for the nation. Whether or not these new programs are effective in curbing obesity has been the subject of several research studies. According to new statistics provided by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) from the University of Washington, Americans are reporting higher levels of physical activity, a promising sign that the country is making progress.

"Around the country, you can see huge increases in the percentage of people becoming physically active, which research tells us is certain to have health benefits," the IHME Director, Dr. Christopher Murray said according to the press release. "If communities in the U.S. can replicate this success and tackle the ongoing obesity impact, it will see more substantial health gains."

The researchers explained that the increased level of physical activity, which includes running, walking, biking and other exercises, could indicate a reduction in the rates of death, chronic illnesses, and cardiovascular diseases. Despite the jump in percentage from 2001 to 2009, the team also found that obesity rates in counties rose. The researchers detailed the rates of physical activity, obesity and life expectancy for men and women from different counties.

The counties that had most active men and women in 2011 were Teton, WY (77.5 percent) and Routt, CO (74.7 percent) respectively. The counties that ended up on the bottom of these two lists were Owsley, KY with only 33.1 percent active men and Issaquena, MS with 28.4 percent active women. The counties that had the highest and lowest rates of obesity for men in 2011 were Owsley, KY with 46.9 percent and San Francisco, CA with 18.3 percent respectively. Obesity rates for women were highest in Issaquena, MS (59.3 percent) and lowest in Falls Church City, VA (17.6 percent)

"More aggressive strategies to prevent and control obesity are needed. Diet and changes in individual behavior are key components," professor of Global Health at IHME, Dr. Ali Mokdad said. Mokdad was a co-author of the study. "Understanding local trends in obesity and physical activity in both rural and urban areas will help communities develop successful strategies and learn from one another."

In terms of life expectancies, the highest rates for men and women were 81.67 years in Fairfax County, VA and 85.02 years in Marin, CA respectively. The lowest rates were in Macon, AL (67.16 years) for men and Leslie, KY (74.12) for women.

According another IHME study, "The State of US Health, 1990-2010: Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors," the third-leading risk factor associated with health is a high BMI (body mass index). The data was published in two studies, "Left Behind: Widening Disparities for Males and Females in US County Lift Expectancy, 1985-2010" and "Prevalence of Physical Activity and Obesity in US Counties 2001-2011: A Road Map for Action." The findings were published in the journal Population Health Metrics

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