A new health study on obesity finds New York is doing better than most states, but still is seeing far more health impacts than even 15 years ago. WAER News Director Chris Bolt got to speak with one of the study’s authors about a health problem that costs the nation $150 billion annually in higher medical costs.
We don’t want to give you indigestion from anything you ate at your Labor Day picnic or the New York State Fair ... but more than a quarter of people in New York State are obese. And actually New York has one of the best rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s health study – most states are worse.
I had a chance to speak with John Auerbach, who’s President of Trust for America’s Health, about the study. He describes the ranking as good news and bad news for New York.
“It is the 7th lowest in obesity rate, so there are only 6 other states that have lower obesity levels. So that’s good news. Bu the bad news is more than 25% of the adult population in New York State are obese. That is a very high number and the idea that a quarter if the population are at elevated risk for a number of different health conditions is quite concerning.”
The state actually gets credit for doing things through both programs and policies that help people eat better and have access to recreation. New York cities and towns are more supportive of walking, hiking and biking areas, for example.
Auerbach says approaches from the lifestyle side of things seem to work better.
“The most effective approaches are ones that change the conditions in people’s neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, so that the easier behavior, the more natural behavior, is the healthier behavior. Programs that rely upon individual people to solve this problem are less effective that those where there’s genuinely a change in policy or the conditions in people’s lives that create what some would efer to as ‘a culture of health’.”
When he looks at the total survey, Auerbach told me there seems to be a leveling off of obesity overall...after years of increases. He notes for example that New York’s current rate of 25.5 % in 2016 compares to a 17 % level in the year 2000. He blames lifestyle changes of more fast food, more soda in people’s daily diets, and much less daily activity. People spend far more time in front of computer or other screens, including television. Auerbach also told me he’s worried any gains that helped slow the growth of obesity are threatened.
“We think this is a critical year in determining whether there will be policy changes at the federal level that will set us back. As Congress and the President consider the budget next year, there are a number of different effective programs in combating obesity that we fear could be on the chopping block.”
HEALTH IMPACTS AND PREDICTIONS RELATED TO OBESITY IN NEW YORK
- Diabetes cases - Current: 1.52 million; Projected (by 2030): 2.26 million
- Hypertension cases - Current: 3.75 million; Projected: 4.95 million
- Heart Disease cases - 2010: 1.14 million; Projected: 5.22 million
- Obesity-related cancers - 2010 - 306 thousand; Projected: 762 thousand
Obesity is linked to higher diabetes rates, increased and more severe heart disease, as well as higher rates of certain types of cancer and exacerbated symptoms of asthma or other respiratory ailments. The entire study is at stateofobesity.org