12.20.2009

The Long Stomach State? Obesity could cost Texas billions by 2018

by Jesse Muhammad

The saying goes "Everything is big in Texas". Well it definitely is and will be very costly.

According to the annual “America's Health Rankings” report, Texans are continuing to get fatter and the rising condition could cost the state billions of dollars in obesity-linked health care in 2018.

The population of obese residents in the Lone Star State rose to 28.9 percent compared to 28.6 percent last year in the report led by the United Health Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the Partnership for Prevention.

Presently, Texas spends over $5.7 billion on obesity-related chronic conditions and if the state meets the nine-year projected obesity figures, the price tag will be $23.2 billion or approximately $1,255 per adult.

Nationally, obesity is costing the U.S. $44 billion in direct health care costs but is predicted to escalate to $344 billion, according to the study.

“Unless there is urgent action across our society, our already overburdened care system will be swamped by a tsunami of cost and demands from preventable chronic disease,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D, United Health Foundation board member.

“People lack the discipline to eat right or stay on a consistent exercise regime,” Nicole Hudson, a certified fitness instructor based in Houston.

“I honestly don’t like to exercise and I do not make time to cook. I spend a lot of money on fast food every week,” says Alicia Jackson, 41.

Ms. Jackson, who is overweight, is a single mother of two sets of twins in Northeast Houston. She has dipped in and out of weight loss tactics for several years only to see herself eventually gain the weight back.

“Between work and school-related functions for my children, I lack time to prepare good meals for me and them. So fast food is always tempting. I need to will myself to plan out how to effectively lose this weight,” says Ms. Jackson, an adjunct professor at San Jacinto Community College.

Obesity highest in the Black community

Obesity has increased 129 percent nationally since the first edition of “America’s Health Ranking” was issued 20 years ago. That was when Texas’ obesity rate was only 12.3 percent. Since 1988, the average weight gain for males in Texas has been 24.2 pounds compared to 22.6 pounds for women.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , Blacks had 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity in 2008, and Hispanics had 21 percent higher obesity prevalence compared with Whites. The highest concentration of obesity for Blacks and Whites were found in the South and Midwest than in the West and Northeast.

“Many people do not see a problem with the way they eat. I get calls all of the time for people who want to train but they give up after a few weeks. The top excuse is lack of time but you only need one hour three days a week,” advises Ms. Hudson.

“Let’s be real. The grocery stores in the Black neighborhoods are poor in comparison to the ones in the White neighborhoods. We have more fast food chains and liquor stores,” Robert Sampson, a bank teller.

“I am not at all making any excuses for obesity but if we’re not building our own then we’re subjected to our surroundings. I’m not driving across town for a nice plate of food. I hit McDonalds,” says Mr. Sampson, who is overweight.

Texas ranks 39th out of the 50 states in overall health care rankings according to the “America's Health Rankings” report. The state is ranked 22nd in the prevalence of binge drinking, 26th in the prevalence of smoking, 43rd in public health dollars per person, 44th in the rate of infectious disease cases and 16th in the rate of cancer deaths. On a brighter side, Texas dropped from being the 12th-fattest state last year to 14th this year.

Members of the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Against Obesity group recently applauded Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The bill passed an initial vote on November 21 and a House floor debate is expected to commence.

“This legislation will help build much needed evidence for understanding ways to reverse the obesity epidemic,” said Campaign spokesperson Penny Lee.

“Obesity is the nation's costliest medical condition, and we applaud the leadership in both the House and Senate for addressing this escalating crisis in their health care reform packages,” said Ms. Lee.

Provisions in Mr. Reid’s bill include appropriating $25 million towards a childhood obesity demonstration project and raising awareness nationwide. Additionally the legislation recommends that the CDC provide grants to state, local and community organizations to develop evidence-based preventive health activities to combat the obesity crisis.

Eat To Live Not To Die

Have you ever read the book "How To Eat To Live" by the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad? If you have not, I strongly suggest you purchase a copy from The Final Call E-Store. In two volumes, Mr. Muhammad is sharing wisdom on eating properly to add years to one's life.

In Book I, Mr. Muhammad writes:

"Anyone who eats all the time has a very short life. Our greatest trouble, when it comes to sickness, is due to staying at the table, eating too much and too often. You have no regularity about your eating at all. "Eat any time," they will tell you. One of the gravest wrongs you could do is to eat when you do not want to. They say behind that, "Eat before you get hungry," which is one of the silliest things of all.... Live right, think right, eat right, and do right"