They say everything's bigger in Texas — and apparently, that includes the people. Texas ranks as the 12th most obese state in the U.S., according to a new study by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The study found that — not surprisingly — obesity rates are skyrocketing. In 2007, only one state had an obesity rate above 30 percent, but in 2011 more than 12 states, including Texas, have obesity rates above 30 percent. More than 20 percent of adolescents (ages 10-17) are considered obese.
In Texas 38.5 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Latinos are considered obese. Rich Hamburg, deputy director for Trust for America’s Health, said Texas' obesity rates are directly linked to poverty, which unfortunately correlates with race.
Hamburg said the obesity epidemic is linked to a dearth of healthy foods available for people on fixed incomes. Many live in so-called "food deserts," and are unable to get to a grocery store and purchase healthy foods. Others are not able to participate in recreational activities because their neighborhoods are unsafe.
“This has been a problem 30 years in the making,” Hamburg said, “and there is not magic bullet to solve the problem."
Obesity is not the only issue plaguing Texas: Chronic health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure have been on an upward slope. In 1995, Texas had a diabetes rate of 5.9 percent; currently the rate is 9.6 percent.
“The information in this report should spur us all – individuals and policymakers alike – to redouble our efforts to reverse this debilitating and costly epidemic,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “Changing policies is an important way to provide children and families with vital resources and opportunities to make healthier choices easier in their day-to-day lives.”
State and federal lawmakers have begun doing this, implementing school meal standards and physical education requirements. But researchers note that many of these policies are not curbing the obesity epidemic because they don't address the conditions in which families live and children play.
“Creating healthy environments is key to reversing the obesity epidemic, particularly for children,” Lavizzo-Mourey said. “When children have safe places to walk, bike and play in their communities, they’re more likely to be active and less likely to be obese. It’s the same with healthy food: When communities have access to healthy affordable foods, families eat better.”