Health officials hope nutrition plan will help Utah's obesity ranking


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Have you had your veggies yet today? If so, then you're right in line with Utah's new 10-year nutrition plan. The plan, which also includes physical activity, was launched earlier this year to help Utahns be healthy.

STATE-BY-STATE ADULT OBESITY RANKINGS

RankState Percent of obese population
1Mississippi33.8%
2Alabama31.6%
Tennessee31.6%
4West Virginia31.3%
5Louisiana31.2%
<b>44</b><b>Utah</b><b>23.2%</b></b>
48Massachusetts21.7%
49District of Columbia21.5%
50Connecticut21.4%
51Colorado19.1%
Trust for America's Health

Most people would have a tough time finding someone who hasn't heard the phrase "children are our future." However, they would also have a tough time finding a child who would rather eat fresh fruit and vegetables than candy or fast food.

"It's associated with so many chronic illnesses," says Lynda Blades, with the Utah Department of Health.

Blades is talking about childhood obesity. By starting statewide community and school programs, she says Utah is taking a new approach to being healthy.

"Twenty-one and a half percent of our childhood population are at unhealthy weight," Blades says. "It might seem like a small number, but we don't want to see that because they're likely to be obese as adults."

Additional Key Findings
• Ten of the 11 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South, as are the 10 states with the highest rates of hypertension.
• The number of states where adult obesity rates exceed 30 percent doubled in the past year, from four to eight -- Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
• Northeastern and Western states had the lowest adult obesity rates; Colorado remained the lowest at 19.1 percent.

That's where the rankings come in. The Trust for America's Health says Mississippi has the worst adult obesity rate in the nation, followed by Alabama, Tennessee, West Virginia and Louisiana.

Utah ranks eighth best, with a 23 percent adult obesity rate. Colorado is No. 1, with 19 percent -- a ranking Utah's Department of Health thinks we can achieve some day by following the 10-year plan.

"We have people in the school setting. We have people in worksites and physicians who are all trying to do something about the problem," Blades says.

It's a problem where the trend needs to be reversed.

"The number of obese adults [has] increased in Utah in the past year," says Dr. Jeff Levi, with Trust for America's Health.

"We want to be able to be proactive and make sure out rates don't get up to the rates we see at the national level," Blades says.

The Trust for America's Health report also says 80 percent of Americans now believe childhood obesity is a national issue.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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