By Teresa Wiltz
More than 35 percent of Arkansas adults are obese, making it the heaviest state in the nation.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson looked at those numbers and saw two problems: an increased risk of all sorts of health challenges, and an increased burden on taxpayers.
Armed with data about the devastating effects of obesity, Hutchinson, a Republican, last month launched a 10-year plan to combat the problem in his state, from tightening nutritional standards in schools to creating more walkable communities and improving access to affordable, healthy foods.
“I’m a conservative,” Hutchinson said. “I’m concerned about tax dollars as well as good health. There’s a consequence to the taxpayer because of bad health habits.”
Arkansas isn’t the only state to take on obesity this year. Governors in New York, Georgia and Tennessee have all announced plans to combat high rates of obesity among their citizens.
Nationwide, a third of all adults—78 million—are obese, up nearly 50 percent since 1990, according to Health Intelligence, a health data analysis site.
The top 10 heaviest states are in the South and the Midwest, according to a new report by the State of Obesity, a project of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health, an advocacy and research group based in Washington, D.C.
Cities and states have a vested interest in tackling the issue. Obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher, is a leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., and can cause a host of chronic health issues, from diabetes to high blood pressure to cancer. Continue reading