Commentary: Obesity can't be ignored any longer

If you are a Kentuckian searching for good news in the annual report on obesity in the United States released last week, you might take comfort in the fact that we're at least not the fattest state in the nation.

That honor falls to Mississippi.

But, truth to tell, there's nothing to be proud of, not for Kentucky, not for any state. Colorado scores the best in the results compiled by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with 18.9 percent – close to one in five – of adults considered obese. In Kentucky, it's 29 percent, or almost one in three. Mississippi, for the record, is at 32.5 percent.

But there is no comfort in this data. It only reconfirms what we already know, that obesity is epidemic in this country, as are the related health problems, including diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

If epidemic sounds strong consider this: As recently as 2000, there was no state where as many as 25 percent of adults were considered obese; in 2007 over half the states claimed that distinction.

The case for children is worse. Kentucky, ranks fourth among states in obesity among 10 to 17-year-olds, at 37.1 percent.

It's tempting to write all this off to a series of poor choices by millions of individuals and ignore it as a major public problem. But that won't work. Too many people have become too fat too quickly, also it's hard to blame a 10 year old for his or her obesity. And the costs are too great to ignore: Obesity and related illnesses are problems that increase the cost of health care for everyone.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Lexington Herald-Leader.