EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

August 22, 2013

N.H., Massachusetts obesity rates are steady

New Hampshire ranks 28th, Massachusetts is 49th

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The program, which started in January, targets adults. But, as Luz said, it takes the whole family to make lifestyle changes that will affect every member.

Urban areas come with their own sets of challenges, she said. Those challenges include fewer opportunities for outdoor activity, less access to fresh food, even limited access to supermarkets, which tend to carry healthier choices than corner stores.

There are socio-economic factors, too, she said.

Obesity rates are highest for people with the least amount of education and with the lowest incomes, according to the report. Obesity rates for adults who did not complete high school are above 35 percent. Adults earning less than $25,000 a year weigh more than their wealthier neighbors; more than 31 percent of that low-income population is obese.

“There’s an environmental cascade of things that contribute to someone’s obesity,” Luz said.

Being overweight leads to all kinds of health issues, she said, including diabetes, sleep apnea, blood pressure, arthritis, infertility, a higher risk of certain types of cancer. Obese individuals spend more money on clothing, she said, and have mobility issues. That includes worrying about whether they can fit into an airplane seat, bus, even a public bathroom.

Change involves education, access to healthier food and increased physical activity, Luz said.

Education and activity are key

New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services is fighting back. The N.H. Obesity Prevention Program aims to promote nutritional education, increase physical activity, improve the quality of food in New Hampshire school cafeterias and homes, and get more fresh produce on residents’ plates.

The state is investing in preventative services and behavior modification to help residents lose weight, according to Margaret Murphy, section administrator for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity within the Department of Health and Human Services.

She said the fact New Hampshire was one of the states to see a decrease in childhood obesity was “huge.”

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