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Four states examine their cultural environment to reduce obesity rates

During a recent visit to my hometown in Texas, I was once again reminded of how much our cultural environment can affect our lifestyle choices. Less than 24 hours into the trip, my health-conscious lifestyle was tossed aside as I ate caloric meals consisting mostly of Tex-Mex and barbecue and spent far too much time sitting while crisscrossing freeways. It wasn't that healthier options weren't available - they just required more work, and in the end I chose convenience.

So I was interested to read an American Medical News story published today about four states that are taking a closer look at how local culture may be contributing to obesity rates and developing solutions to tackle the problem. The states include Colorado, South Dakota, Mississippi and Michigan. South Dakota is working to increase residents' consumption of fruits and vegetables, and its plan includes a social-media component:

One strategy has been to capitalize on the state’s high percentage of Facebook users, creating several pages on the social networking site to remind people about eating more fruits and vegetables. There’s also the Harvest of the Month program, which South Dakota adapted from other states to teach children about fruits and vegetables. The state’s “Healthy South Dakota” website discusses that program and other state initiatives to encourage healthier eating and physical activity. As mentioned in the “F as in Fat” study, South Dakota also is one of 34 states and the District of Columbia that have imposed a sales tax on soda.

These efforts have made a difference, especially in younger children: Obesity rates recently have gone below the national average for children 5 to 18. But [Kristin Biskeborn, the state nutritionist for South Dakota’s Dept. of Health] acknowledges that the state has a long way to go.

Previously: NIH videos explore how habit, education and environment affect behavior and health, Can moderate behavior revisions add up to better health? and Obesity’s health costs bigger than earlier estimates
Photo by Rob Zand

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