Chronic, non-communicable diseases are the leading causes of death in Mississippi and nationwide. Mississippi consistently rates as one of the most obese states in the nation and has some of the highest rates of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and strokes in the nation. Obesity is one of the greatest threats to the health of our state, and efforts thus far have had limited effectiveness in curbing this growing epidemic. According to the CDC, 75% of total health care expenditures are associated with treating chronic diseases. If Mississippians reduce their BMI rates to lower levels and achieve an improved status of health, the state could save over $13 billion annually in unnecessary health care costs. If we want to build a healthier Mississippi, we must tackle this grave problem.
How We’ll Measure Success
Though the larger measure of our long-term success is the childhood and adult obesity rate, we selected more attainable intermediate measures:
- Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who achieve 1 hour or more of moderate-and/or vigorous-intensity physical activity daily
- Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who consume fruit more than 1 time daily
- Percentage of students in grades 9-12 who consume vegetables more than 1 time daily
- Percentage of adults ages 18 and older who achieve at least 150 minutes a week moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (or an equivalent combination)
- Percentage of adults ages 18 and older who report consuming fruit more than one time daily.
- Percentage of adults ages 18 and older who report consuming vegetables more than one time daily.
- In 2013, Mississippi’s adult obesity rate was 35.1 percent, up from 28.1 percent in 2004 and from 15.0 percent in 1990. This placed Mississippi in a tie with West Virginia for having the highest rate of obesity nationwide in 2013.
- In a survey of Mississippi residents, participants across the state reported that cancer, obesity, and chronic diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke are their top health concerns in their communities.
Combating chronic disease will require action on all of our parts. Each of us needs to work toward normalizing healthy behaviors and incorporating them into our daily lives. This means preparing healthy meals or challenging family members to make healthier versions of their favorite dishes at holidays. In your community, you can work to form walking or running clubs that meet in areas that have lacked access to gyms and exercise equipment. Aside from the work of individuals, it also will require the action of our leaders. City planners need to work to create cities and towns that are walkable and safe for residents. Active forms of transportation like biking or walking should be emphasized over cars where possible. Business leaders can set aside time for employee exercise, creating healthy vending policies, and challenging staff to take simple steps like taking the stairs instead of elevators. There are countless ways to use your influence, whoever you are, to promote a healthier lifestyle for yourself and those around you.