S.C.’s big, bad rating

An overweight man walks the streets of Washington Tuesday, July 22, 2003. (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)

South Carolina is weighing in near the top of another list. Unfortunately.

According to a new analysis, the state’s rate of obesity is 10th in the nation. And while Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which produced the report, point out that the rate of obesity nationally stayed about the same in 2014 as in 2013, that’s cold comfort when the rate of adult obesity rate in South Carolina is 32.1 percent.

Something must be done. Actually, a lot of things must be done.

Certainly adults and adolescents who are obese know they are. And they likely know that obesity can increase their chances of getting heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Actually, most probably know what to do about it. But making dramatic changes is a challenge.

Some programs aimed at slimming down the population have been effective, but not enough.

Among the promising local programs are ones encouraging school students to eat well and engage in fitness activities — and win awards for doing so; offering fitness classes for senior citizens with pre-existing conditions; and making school lunches healthier (a federal mandate).

Bike lanes provide people a way to get exercise as they go to work or appointments. Walking trails get them moving. Municipal swimming pools mask exercise as fun for children and adults.

But these things cost money, and taxpayers often balk at spending the necessary funds. It should sway them to know that obesity is estimated to cost South Carolina $8.5 billion yearly.

Those who discount the need for bike lanes might rethink things. Perhaps losing seven seconds per commute in order to accommodate bicyclists on the Ashley River bridge isn’t such a tall order.

And, of course, a lot of the responsibility rests with individuals who must make the decision to exercise, turn off the television and resist the impulse to frequent fast-food restaurants.

Parents need not just to feed their children healthy food and see that they get exercise, but to set examples by doing the same things.

Doctors need to be informed about obesity and confront their patients who are overweight, monitor them and recommend changes to their lifestyles. They need to know who are most vulnerable.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control has a website with information about obesity and programs to address it.

Nationally, obesity rates are 38 percent higher among blacks than whites, and more than 26 percent higher among Latinos than whites.

Businesses can provide incentives for employees to exercise and maintain a healthy weight. But it will take more than one initiative to help people slim down significantly.

And while bake sales at schools do not single-handedly fatten students, schools should look for alternative ways to make money for activities.

The consequences of obesity for people are far more than buying super-sized clothing. For example, South Carolina’s pregnancy-related death rate is the highest it’s been since the turn of the century, and obesity is often a factor.

As long as obesity is a big problem in South Carolina, everyone has to look for solutions — big and little.