In the 2009 F as in Fat report, West Virginia weighed in as the 3rd heaviest state in the nation – just behind Mississippi and Alabama. It’s no coincidence that these three states are all located below the Mason Dixon line: Eight of the ten states with the highest percentage of obese adults are in the South. Although many West Virginians suffer from obesity, they have also fallen victim to one of its most unfortunate side-effects: diabetes. Over 30% of W. Virginians currently suffers from the disease, and as waistlines expand, that number is only expected to increase. There are more type 2 diabetics in West Virginia than any other state in the country.
Diabetes has escalated to epidemic proportions in West Virginia, where approximately 12% of adults have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by a health care professional. West Virginians also experience higher prevalence of co-morbid conditions such as physical inactivity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. The estimated number of people with diabetes in West Virginia is 256,500. Access to diabetes education, care, and management is limited and/or non-existent in many rural areas of the state, which means individuals living with diabetes face a greater risk of related illnesses or death.
Through the Healthy Kids, Healthy America program, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA) is supporting 15 states as they work to develop policies to prevent childhood obesity. West Virginia (along with Tennessee, New York, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and several other states) receives funding to tackle obesity and obesity-related issues. West Virginia’s First order of business: starting a comprehensive wellness check for all incoming kindergarteners in public schools. This is a valuable tool to help track health and wellness of state residents in the coming years.