From the category of backhanded compliments comes this recent headline in The Columbian: “County, state on healthier end of obesity lists.”
Certainly, the news could be worse; having low incidents of obesity speaks well of the lifestyle and habits of local residents. But, as they say, it’s all relative. America has an epidemic of obesity, and that is costly for the nation’s health and finances. Washington is not immune from that toll, even if we are doing better than most states.
Obesity has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, some cancers and even mental illness, and the Centers for Disease Control says it contributes to “all causes of death” — an eye-opening summarization. Meanwhile, the nationwide costs of weight-related medical bills amount to an estimated $190 billion a year.
Compared to most of the country, residents in Clark County and throughout the state are fit and trim. About 28 percent of Washington adults — well below the national average — are counted as obese as measured by body mass index, and the state has the third-lowest obesity rate for ages 10-17. The numbers are even better in Clark County; David Hudson of the county’s public health department says the latest Healthy Youth Survey indicates that teenagers in the area have one of the lowest obesity rates in the state.
This, however, is not time to sit back and gorge on leftover Halloween candy. Having a low obesity rate compared with the national average is akin to being the best bagpipes player in the neighborhood; it’s not necessarily something to brag about.