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Healthcare

South Carolina Cities Rank Among America’s Fattest

A worsening epidemic tied to a “vicious circle.”

Last month, consumer financial website WalletHub released its latest report on the nation’s worsening obesity epidemic – breaking down America’s extra pound problem by municipality. Not surprisingly, several South Carolina cities fared poorly on the report – which was unflinchingly entitled “Fattest Cities in the U.S.

According to the numbers, the Palmetto State’s capital – Columbia, S.C. – ranked No. 10 nationally on the list. Meanwhile, Greenville ranked No. 15, Myrtle Beach clocked in at No. 17 and Charleston came in at No. 24. In other words, all four of South Carolina’s major population centers ranked in the Top 25.

Multiple municipalities bordering South Carolina also fared poorly on the report including Augusta (No. 13) and Charlotte (No. 44).

According to the report, all those extra pounds “have inflated the costs of obesity-related medical treatment” to approximately $190.2 billion a year – while productivity losses total more than $4.3 billion.

Sadly, these results were not surprising. Just last fall, we covered a similar report from the website assessing the obesity epidemic at the state level.

"South Carolina consistently ranks in the top ten to fifteen states for obesity,” said Dr. Marc Antonetti. "And if you look at all the statistical categories - South Carolina ranks up there.  Whatever category you look in, we’re up there.”

Antonetti is a surgeon at Lexington Medical Center - a West Columbia, S.C.-based health care provider that serves much of the Midlands region of the Palmetto State. He helped establish the South Carolina Obesity Surgery Center (SCOSC) - a nationally recognized facility which has performed more than 8,000 bariatric operations.

Antonetti told me the most troubling statistic is that an estimated twenty percent of 10-17-year-old children are obese - meaning they have a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30.

"In the 1990s it was half that,” Antonetti told me.

(Click to view)

Dr. Marc Antonetti (Lexington Medical Center)

For those of you keeping score at home, BMI is a simple calculation of the ratio of weight to height. A BMI reading in the 18-25 range is considered normal, 26-30 is considered overweight, 30-40 is considered obese and anything over 40 is considered morbidly obese.

The rise in childhood obesity "is going to be really devastating for the future,” Antonetti said, citing a "societal impact that is going to be staggering.”

"Obesity and childhood obesity in particular is the No. 1 epidemic in the United States,” he said. “The pathway of health care expenditures is escalating in an unsustainable fashion. The tidal wave of costs that is coming is really going to be unbelievable.”

According to Antonetti, part of the problem is the increasing prevalence of "food deserts” - or areas where residents lack access to healthy dietary choices.

“There are many parts of South Carolina where the distance you have to travel to access healthy food is significant,” Antonetti said.

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Among them? Allendale and Williamsburg counties, where obesity rates registered at a staggering 46 percent, according to a recent report form the University of Wisconsin.

While the ability to find (and afford) healthy food becomes increasingly difficult, there has been a "proliferation of fast food, unhealthy food and processed food,” according to Antonetti. Coupled with our culture’s "more and more sedentary lifestyle” we are seeing what he calls a "vicious circle.”

“We have morbidly obese, malnourished people,” Antonetti told me. “It’s evolutionarily striking.”

The solution? Aside from the minimally invasive procedures his hospital performs, educating future generations.

"The beginning of changing the trend is education - helping people understand what healthy eating looks like,” Antonetti said. "A lot of people don't even know what healthy food is - or how to prepare food in a healthy manner.”

Stay tuned for much more on this topic as our news outlet ramps up its health care coverage in the weeks to come ...

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks on phone
Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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