Thursday, April 19, 2007

Proud to be a Southerner

Because we know our way around a dinner plate--as this map shows.

But this is not going to be a funny blog entry about redeye gravy and chitlins. Because I'm on a soapbox this morning.

The folks over at CalorieLab report that the State of Mississippi is considering funding weight-loss surgery for its obese citizens.

Turns out, as the above graphic from CalorieLab shows, that Mississippi leads the nation in the number of its citizens deemed morbidly obese and they are calculating the cost of obesity to the state's overburdened healthcare system.

Whoa there, Nellie.

I have no doubts that obesity, diabetes and other "co-morbidities" contributes to a state's healthcare costs.

But in my mind, there's a bigger culprit out there that should be addressed. At the risk of sounding like a socialist--because I'm not one--I firmly believe poverty is the biggest factor impacting healthcare costs.

Now, there's some overlap here, because many studies such as this one have shown a link between poverty and obesity. Face it--what are the cheapest foods at your grocery store? Let's see. Noodles. Potatoes. A virtual plethora of ultra-cheap cookies.

But which came first, the poverty or the obesity? Or can you separate the two?

I think you can. I live in the poorest state in the country. I live in a city with the largest percentage of citizens living in poverty in this state--it is a situation that has been exacerbated by Hurricane Katrina, where our poor and disenfranchised people were satellite-beamed around the world for everyone to see. And a lot of them were obese, yes, and a lot of them were not.

But the majority of them were poor, and they do not have health insurance. Right now, with our charity no-insurance-needed healthcare system still in ruins, providing healthcare to folks who can't afford it--fat and thin--is breaking us.

If Mississippi's healthcare costs are onerous, they should look first not at how many fat people are waddling around their state but at how many poor people are eating what they can afford and then burdening the healthcare system.

I don't have any solutions here--I'm sure there are those of you out there with socialized medicine who could tell us the problems fraught with that system.

But let's identify the real problem here and not the easy target. Buying a lot of people weight-loss surgery thinking it will relieve poverty-induced stress on the healthcare system is just nuts.

Okay. Off my soapbox now.

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