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Bridging the Great Health Divide: Alabama ranks 7th in obesity

Updated: Mar. 8, 2021 at 8:27 PM CST
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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - We’re bringing you a new health initiative called “Bridging the Great Health Divide.”

It’s a partnership between Google and WAFF’s parent company Gray Television. Alabama ranks 7th in the nation when it comes to adult obesity. This report will show the impact this disease has on everyone - including those with low incomes and who live in rural areas.

You’ve heard the saying - you are what you eat. Stats show adults 18 years and older make up the largest group of overweight people followed by school age children. Lori Nieman is a charge nurse over the medical weight loss clinic at Huntsville Hospital.

“People eat a lot of food that is not real food. If you look at a box of something that is prepared and you read the ingredients and you can’t pronounce anything on there that’s got to tell you something,” said Lori Nieman, Huntsville Hospital Weight Loss Clinic.

Here’s how the federal government defines obesity for adults. Anyone with a body mass index - or BMI - of 30 percent or more is considered obese.

For a 5-foot-9 inch adult, someone who weighs 203 pounds or more falls into that category. Health leaders call this a troubling public health issue.

“Americans want everything to be convenient. They value convenience over health,” said Nieman.

Obesity and overweight are ongoing health concerns nationwide. For those in rural communities and the low income, they’re less likely to have access to healthy and affordable food.

“It directly comes from our diet. There’s not a lot in those rural areas or low income areas like dieticians. A lot of people have never even met a dietician let alone had one or worked with one. They’re expensive. They have a dollar menu at McDonald’s that’s full of french fries and milkshakes. If you want a really health meal it’s going to cost you about $12 to $15,” said Akeem Davis, Transitional Care Coach Coordinator for Huntsville Hospital.

Obesity has long since been linked to everything from high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes, to heart disease and certain cancers.

Jamie Collins is a registered dietician.

“We need to help people understand there is something that can be done about this. If I buy these fruits and vegetables and learn how to cook with them I can actually make a healthier and sometimes less expensive meal,” said Jamie Collins, registered Dietician at Huntsville Hospital.

If you are battling obesity, there is help.

Huntsville Hospital offers a number of programs including “Cooking Matters” and the Medical Weight Loss Clinic. If you don’t have access or the resources to dieticians, there are free resources online that can help get you started on the journey to a healthier you.

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