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State faces much work to lower obesity rate

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THE bad news is that Indiana ranks 15th in the country for obesity rates.

The good news is that the state had ranked second as recently as 1995.

That’s a pretty good improvement, but obviously a lot of work still needs to be done, as evidenced by the internal statistics in the overall national study.

It placed Indiana’s obesity rate at 29.1 percent. In other words, almost one of every three Hoosiers weighs too much. Many fall into the ominous category of being “morbidly obese.”

In historical terms, this alarming situation (in terms of percentages) is a fairly recent development.

Despite the improvement in rankings, the state’s overall obesity rate has increased by 60 percent since 1995. Those suffering from diabetes, which is closely rated to obesity, have grown from 4.8 percent of the population in 1995 to 9.6 percent today.

When those statistics are included, there is little about which to rejoice in this improvement in the overall rankings. It is inane to take any solace from the findings that Indiana is not in as bad shape as most of its neighbors.

The obesity issue has finally gotten the attention it deserves, but even this enhanced knowledge has not been enough to stem the growing evolution into a fatter society.

Locally, the Columbus area has gotten the jump on many of its neighbors through such programs as the Healthy Communities Initiative, which has used a massive federal grant to put healthy lifestyles in the forefront of overall priorities.

While this initiative has been successful in raising the awareness level and promoting exercise and good food choices, it is only part of a much bigger puzzle that needs comprehensive involvement at all levels of the population.

It is especially critical that greater attention be paid to low-income families, many of whom have limited choices when it comes to affordable meal preparations and knowledge of recreational opportunities.

Indeed, one of the most important steps that can be taken is to increase the awareness about steps these families can take to live within limited budgets but eat and exercise in a healthy fashion.

These trends need to be halted simply because lives are at stake.

Readers can comment on today’s editorial by sending comments by email to, by fax to 379-5711 or by writing “Editorials,” The Republic, 333 Second St., Columbus, IN 47201.

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