Why Not Be the Fittest City or County in the USA?
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
April 19, 2001
Some time ago, I heard that a certain group designated San Antonio as the "third fattest city in the country". As unflattering as this is and as personal as it is to all of us including yours truly, I could not forget this dubious distinction which I have since learned was given to us by the Coalition for Excess Weight Risk Education. Even the fact that New Orleans is at the top of the list and Norfolk Virginia is second does not console me very much. The thinnest city in the survey was Denver, Colorado. Why can't San Antonio be the thinnest?
Now just what in the world might you ask does a County Commissioner have to do with obesity? Plenty. Our University Health System serves this County and City as well as the region in a number of areas, arising from problems associated with obesity. To the extent that we can reduce the need for the proverbial "pound of cure" through education and effort, your County's health system is less expensive on all of us.
It is interesting to note that obesity has become the second leading preventable cause of death in the United States, second only to smoking-related deaths. In addition to the 300,000 Americans that die each year from obesity-related illnesses, the incidence of heath disease, stroke, breast cancer, colon cancer, arthritis, and adult onset diabetes only adds to the reasons we should pay heed to the research. We can and must reap the health benefits that often are linked with our changing our habits. According to a study conducted by The Worldwatch Organization, exercise deprivation is a major contributor to obesity. Four million years of highly active hunting and gathering has shaped our metabolic systems, making maintenance of healthy body weight dependent on regular exercise.
San Antonio and Bexar County are not in a category alone though. In the United States, 61% of all adults are overweight. Worldwide, the number of over nourished and overweight rivals the numbers who are undernourished and underweight!
What is causing our difficulty with weight, aside from the special problems causing excess weight that is beyond our control? Again, according to Worldwatch, in the United Kingdom, the two, lifestyle variables that correlate most closely with obesity are television viewing and automobile ownership. Given our heritage, exercise may be a genetic imperative.
So, the challenge among other things is to redesign communities and make public transportation the centerpiece of urban transport. More and better sidewalks, hiking trails and bicycle lanes, conversion of parking lots over time to playgrounds and playing fields will also help attract walkers and joggers. Finally, engaging a healthy conversation and acting on a strategy for more exercise for all of us could very well set us on the pathway to the fittest city in the U.S.A.