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Obesity Now Costing Small Mississippi Towns Millions

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 30 Aug 2011 05:31pm | comments

Mississippi's obesity epidemic is now costing even Mississippi's smallest communities millions of dollars a year. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports the state is expected to spend around 1-billion dollars treating obesity this year.

The rapidly rising cost of treating obesity related illnesses is putting an increasing strain on Mississippi's medical system.

Alfio Rausa, A state department of health district officer for 18 delta counties, being the fattest state in the country is quickly becoming unaffordable.

"The issue is, how do you continue to sustain that system that is being funded by Medicare and Medicaid. And in our state, it is the transfer payments through those programs, that are accounting for most of the health care that is being provided," Rausa said.

Obesity has steep cost for even small Mississippi communities like Belzoni, where the yearly cost of obesity is nearly 2-million dollars.

Rausa says that's money that could be going fund parks, play grounds and walking paths to help people stay fit.

According to the CDC, Jefferson County is the fattest county in Mississippi.

That news shocked Jonelle and Anthony Edwards, who reacted by starting a fitness outreach program called Fat To Fit to help Jefferson County residents become more fit.

"We wanted to focus on the love that parents have for their children. And then focus on incentives for paying people, and competition, and just a whole myriad of things," Edwards said.

Edwards says they are trying non-traditional approaches to educating children and adults about exercise and food, such as taking kids to a farm and playing exercise video games.

Anthony Edwards says he felt responsible as a parent to take control of his weight.

"I do not want one of my children to die before me. Not one. But I know if we don't start doing something, guess what? They will," Edwards said.

The couple has successfully lost weight 80 pounds since January and expects to have more than 400 children in the county to be involved in their program this fall.

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