Health Alert: Obesity

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- The World Health Organization calls obesity “one of the greatest public health challenges of the 21st century.” Obesity affects nearly every person, every family, every male and every female regardless of age, education and income level.

Tony Alter / CC BY 2.0 / MGN

This disease imposes a huge burden on the quality of life of individuals and their families, creating a tremendous financial burden for individuals, families, employers, insurers and the healthcare system as a whole.

Joining us tonight is Dr. Elizabeth Hess, UHC Family Medicine physician and faculty.

Question: So what criteria must a person meet to be considered obese?

Answer: When a person has a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30, it means they are classified as obese. Obesity is a serious concern because it may be associated with adverse mental health outcomes, reduced quality of life, and West Virginia’s leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.

Question: For the second year in a row, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health found in a report they released late last year that WV leads the nation when it comes to adult obesity. Doctor why are we seeing such alarming statistics and what can this mean?

Answer: The increased rates can be attributed to the lack of physical activity and a diet mainly of fast food. What it means is that WV leads the nation in adult diabetes at 15.2 percent and hypertension at 53.5 percent. I am seeing adults patients in their early 20’s that need blood pressure medication and adults in their 30’s with knee problems as a result of these statistics.

Question: How do we go about reversing this trend?

It is time to focus on reducing obesity in West Virginia by
increasing physical activity, improving fruit, and vegetable consumption and strengthening environments and policies that encourage healthy living.

This includes implementing practice protocols within health systems to prevent and manage obesity and related chronic conditions. These interventions will help manage and prevent diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.


Question: If a child is obese, does it follow him or her through adulthood?

Answer: A study from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development shows that children who are overweight or obese as 5-year-olds are more likely to be obese as adolescents. Other studies have shown that obese adolescents tend to become obese adults. Thus, it appears that, if a child is obese at age 5, chances are high that child will become an obese adult.

However, the new study of obesity does offer a reason for hope. If a child can avoid obesity by at age 5, he or she has a good chance to avoid a lifetime of obesity and all of the health problems associated with it.

Unfortunately, West Virginia has the second highest obesity rate for youth ages 10 to 17.