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Can Mississippi Learn From Less Obese States?

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 14 Aug 2012 05:20pm | comments
Victor Sutton.

Mississippi health officials say new policies in the state can help shed the title of fattest in the nation. This comes after the Centers for Disease Control ranks Mississippi as most obese. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that health officials in Mississippi and Colorado, the thinnest state, both believe the obesity epidemic can be turned back.

This year's data shows nearly 35-percent of Mississippians are obese.

Dr. Victor Sutton with the Mississippi Department of Health says the obesity problem is complicated but believes state efforts to increase access to healthy food and exercise can decrease obesity rates.

"I think that we have some work to do. And i think in time it is going to show whether the things we have put in place are going to turn this ship around. I think one thing that we have to remember is that we didn't get here overnight and it is going to take some time to turn this ship around," Sutton said.

But what is working in Colorado; the thinnest state with 21-percent obesity?

"It doesn't happen overnight. It doesn't happen by a single organization,"

That's Dr. Eric Aakko with the Colorado Health Department.

He is quick to point out that Colorado has a number of built-in advantages over Mississippi such as higher income and education rates and a culture and climate more conducive to outdoor exercise.

But he also says the state has increased funding for expanded state and local health partnership, boosting phys-ed requirements in schools and increasing rates of breastfeeding.

"Breastfeeding is tied into being supportive of lower obesity rates. And that is one thing we have found that we have taking concerted effort, working with our partners and we are starting to see some of the fruits of those labors," Aakko said.

Mississippi's Dr. Victor Sutton agrees that Mississippi faces bigger inherent hurdles to stopping the obesity epidemic especially when it comes to access to health food and safe places to workout.

"But we have schools who have nice facilities. They have tracks. And it is a safe place to exercise and work out. So we partner with them and try to make the community aware that this is a physical exercise opportunity," Sutton said.

Sutton says anti-obesity efforts are paying off in schools where there has been a decline in obesity among children, showing that the tide of obesity can be turned.

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Victor Sutton.


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