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Texas ranks as 10th-fattest state

A third of adult Texans are considered obese and a new study says those numbers will continue to grow unless dramatic lifestyle changes are made.

If obesity rates continue at their current trajectory, 57 percent of Texas adults could be obese by 2030, according to a report released Tuesday by Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Foundation.

Based on 2011 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30.4 percent of Texas adults are considered obese, enough to rank Texas 10th among the states.

Mississippi ranked first at 34.9 percent; Louisiana ranked second at 33.4 percent; West Virginia ranked third at 32.4 percent; Alabama was fourth at 32 percent; and Michigan was fifth at 31.3 percent.

Colorado, which had a 20.7 percent adult obesity rate, and Hawaii, at 21.8 percent, had the two lowest obesity rates.

But the study, titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future was more focused on where the trend was headed.

Across the U.S., 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent and 39 states, including Texas, could have rates above 50 percent. All 50 states could have rates above 44 percent by 2030.

Under the current trends, Mississippi is projected to have the highest obesity rate at 66.7 percent while Colorado would have the lowest obesity rate at 44.8 percent.

Healthcare costs soar

"This study shows us two futures for America's health," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Foundation. "At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce healthcare costs. Nothing less is acceptable."

In Texas, obesity-related healthcare costs could climb by more than 17.1 percent. Nine states could see increases of more than 20 percent, with New Jersey on course to see the biggest increase at 34.5 percent.

The report says that Texas could reduce healthcare costs by more than $19 billion in 10 years if its residents decrease the average body mass index by 5 percent.

But the study said there is not a single solution to solving the problem and there is still no clear evidence that punitive measures such as soda taxes or banning soft drinks from schools result in a change in behavior.

Examples of measures that can work on a local level include providing incentives for purchasing healthier foods, building bike lanes and sidewalks, offering healthier school lunches and requiring 20 minutes of daily exercise for school children or encouraging them to walk to school.

'FitWorth' program

Locally, cities have been trying to encourage changes.

This week Mayor Betsy Price launched "FitWorth" in an effort to address childhood obesity rates.

"We know that kids who eat right and stay active do better in school and don't get sick as often," Price said. "Unfortunately, many children haven't been taught the importance of a healthy lifestyle. We are raising a generation of children with a lower life expectancy than their parents. Through Fit Fort Worth, we will raise awareness about healthy activities in our city and challenge both children and parents to stay fit."

The effort involves programs with the Fort Worth school district, including an eight-week team competition for third- to eighth-graders to track their time in physical activity and healthy eating patterns.

The top three schools in the challenge will win new PE equipment.

Another program will target making cafeteria menus healthier within the constraints of school budgets.

Also, Fort Worth announced in July a bike-sharing program to make it easier to have access to bicycles. Under a U.S. Department of Transportation grant, the Fort Worth Transportation Authority obtained a $941,728 grant for a bike-rental project to make 300 bicycles available with local sponsors contributing $260,000.

The city has installed 11 miles of bike lanes in the central district and 9 1/2 miles of bike routes throughout Fort Worth with a U.S. Department of Energy grant.

Meanwhile in Arlington, the city received a $3.37 million grant in August to improve sidewalk access and make it safer for pedestrians.

There had been criticisms that the city's major corridors weren't safe for walkers.

Measures such as these can have impacts, according to the report, which says wellness programs and efforts to encourage exercise help people achieve healthier lifestyles and reduce medical expenses.

For example, participants in community-based programs who focused on improving nutrition and increasing physical activity had a 58 percent reduction in incidence of type II diabetes compared with drug therapy, which had a 31 percent reduction.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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