Obesity and Kentucky's Economy

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The statistics are staggering in the obesity epidemic in America, and Kentucky is near the top of the list for most obese.

Dr. Rice Leach, of the Kentucky Department of Health, says, "Kentucky is moving fairly quickly towards 25 percent of our state. One million people are at high risk of these expensive medical conditions, and the way things work now, who pays for it? You pay for it out of your health insurance."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Kentucky spent $340 million in 1998 towards obesity-attributable Medicaid and obesity-related health costs have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system.

Leach says, "What's that mean? Obesity means diabetes, it means heart disease, it means asthma, it means some cancers, it means somebody’s gonna have to pay for it."

Here's a look at the states with a ten percent obesity rate in 1985. Watch as it increases drastically until 2001. The Department of Health had to add a color, gold, for Mississippi. Mississippi has more than 25 percent of obese people.

Leach says, "I tell people we're in the first round of a double-header. If you think we've got health care costs and public expenditures now- just wait."

But according to the CDC, Kentucky is establishing a committee to help decide how to approach the development of a state plan.

Leach says, "Now that people know about it we've got some policy decisions to make about how we're gonna undo it, or are we going to pay the physical, medical, economic and personal price of being disabled."

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Obesity in Children

  • In 1999, 13 percent of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14 percent of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight.

  • Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

  • Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

  • Overweight adolescents have a 70 percent chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80 percent if one or more parent is overweight or obese.

  • Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

  • The most immediate consequence of being overweight or obese as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.

Cause of Obesity

  • Obesity in children and adolescents is generally caused by lack of physical activity, unhealthy eating patterns, or a combination of the two, with genetics and lifestyle both playing important roles in determining a child's weight.

  • Our society has become very sedentary. Television, computer and video games contribute to children's inactive lifestyles.

  • Forty-three percent of adolescents watch more than two hours of television each day.

  • Children, especially girls, become less active as they move through adolescence.


  • Doctors and other health care professionals are the best people to determine whether your child or adolescent's weight is healthy, and they can help rule out rare medical problems as the cause of unhealthy weight.

  • A Body Mass Index (BMI) can be calculated from measurements of height and weight. Health professionals often use a BMI "growth chart" to help them assess whether a child or adolescent is overweight.

  • A physician will also consider your child or adolescent's age and growth patterns to determine whether his or her weight is healthy.

General Suggestions

  • Let your child know he or she is loved and appreciated whatever his or her weight. An overweight child probably knows better than anyone else that he or she has a weight problem.

  • Overweight children need support, acceptance, and encouragement from their parents.

  • Focus on your child's health and positive qualities, not your child's weight.

  • Try not to make your child feel different if he or she is overweight but focus on gradually changing your family's physical activity and eating habits.

  • Be a good role model for your child. If your child sees you enjoying healthy foods and physical activity, he or she is more likely to do the same now and for the rest of his or her life.

Physical Activity Suggestions

  • Be physically active. It is recommended that Americans accumulate at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Even greater amounts of physical activity may be necessary for the prevention of weight gain, for weight loss, or for sustaining weight loss.

  • Plan family activities that provide everyone with exercise and enjoyment.

  • Provide a safe environment for your children and their friends to play actively; encourage swimming, biking, skating, ball sports, and other fun activities.

  • Reduce the amount of time you and your family spend in sedentary activities, such as watching TV or playing video games. Limit TV time to less than two hours a day.

Source: http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_adolescents.htm (The Surgeon General's Call to Action Web site)