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Kentucky’s rate of obesity is two and a half times the world rate

By Kentucky Health News

Only 12 percent of the world counts as obese today; 30 percent of Kentuckians are obese.

Take no solace from The Economist, which proclaims in its yearly analysis-and-prognostication issue that this is the year world leaders will take on worldwide obesity because, writes Charlotte Howard, “they will realize something must be done.”

So, no, it is not just you, Kentucky. In fact, Howard, the health-care correspondent for the magazine, writes that 30 percent of Mexico’s adult population is obese.

That is precisely the same percentage of Kentuckians that were considered obese by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health analysis released in August. (We ranked sixth fattest state nationwide.) It is also the same percentage of Chinese adults that are, as Howard put it, “too wide” — a term that Howard uses here to include the overweight as well as the obese.

But there is no room to crow here. Kentucky is far ahead of the trend. Only 12 percent of the world counts as obese today. We beat that two and half times over. (The number of Kentuckians who were merely overweight was not calculated or included in the figures in the study.) A study released in September by the same group found that if trends continue, 60 percent of Kentuckians will be obese by 2030. The World Health Organization’s estimate of the world’s obesity was at 15 percent by 2020.

The Economist folks favor an approach that a democratic path to better health and fiscal sanity, given the health care cost ramifications of obesity. They like a tax on soda — it’s pure sugar, no real nutrition. They like subsidies to make fresh produce cheaper. And they like better school lunches and labeling, labeling, labeling so consumers will make better choices.

Kentucky Health News is a service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.