By Chris Egan
Kentucky sits proudly at the top of many great lists on such subjects as horse racing, basketball, caves, and bourbon. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth also finds itself at the top of a list that brings no pride to its people.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Kentucky is one of 13 states in the nation whose rates of obesity are 30% or higher. While that rate went unchanged over the past year, the last two decades have shown a dramatic rise in obesity which has brought with it a lot of health problems that not only costs Kentuckians huge amounts of money, but also threaten the lives of the people they love.
In 1990 Kentucky’s adult obesity rate was 12.7%. In 2012 it was 31.3%.
Some people cry foul to these statistics because obesity in the US is measured using the Body Mass Index, or BMI, a formula that many people say doesn’t accurately measure obesity because it doesn’t take into account muscle mass or bone density. This is true. It does not. But, one should still take into account the trends in these statistics.
If the upward trend in BMI isn’t enough then one should also consider the dramatic increase in the rates of diabetes in Kentuckians, which has gone from 3.5% in 1995 to 10.7% in 2013.
If that still isn’t enough then one should also consider the trend in the rates of obesity in children in Kentucky in the past 40 years, which have gone from 5% to 14% for children age 6 to 11 and from 5% to 17.1% for adolescents age 12 to 19.
The point is that while BMI certainly is not the best tool for measuring obesity, one should not simply disregard all the data that has been collected using that tool. There is still valuable information in the data. To disregard it completely would be foolish.
Obesity is a real problem.
Here at the Kentucky Project, we will be dissecting that problem in a series of articles on obesity and the ongoing efforts to stop the trends.