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Obesity Rates Higher in Southern States: Florida a Significant Exception

A project partly funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation keeps track of obesity and disease rates in the U.S. One of the most significant health risks of this century is type-II diabetes. According to one source, obesity rates are escalating out of control and many policymakers wonder what can be done to stop this trend. While the trend is nationwide, southern states seem to be experiencing a much higher rate of increase in adult onset diabetes than northern states. In particular, all of the top ten states for diabetes are southern states, with the exception of Ohio and West Virginia. Nevertheless, Florida comes in at number 44 on the list – one of the lowest rates in the country. Still, diabetes is by no means getting better in the Sunshine State.

How bad is the problem?

As of 2015, over 68 percent of all Americans can be classified as overweight or obese, which represents double the numbers seen in 1980, according to research from Harvard University’s School of Public Health. And this trend is not limited to the U.S. However, the U.S. did experience the largest rates of increase, with approximately 1 kilogram per decade in added body mass across the entire population.

How does Florida compare to other states?

Our nearest neighbors are far more obese than Florida. Alabama comes in fifth place at 33.5 percent of adults and over 18 percent of children 10-17 being overweight or obese. Our other neighbor, Georgia, does not fare much better, coming in at number 19, with 30.5 percent of all adults and 16.5 of children 10-17. Still, Florida comes in 44th with 26.2 of adults and 13.4 of children 10-17 years of age. So, Florida seems to be the exception to the rule when it comes to southern states with large rural populations.

How do obesity rates affect healthcare costs?

As of September 2015, obesity costs Americans between $147 billion and $210 billion every year. This astounding estimate shows just how serious obesity is when looking at our national healthcare budget. But lower obesity rates do not necessarily mean overall good health. While Florida shows good numbers when looking at weight, Florida has seen enormous increases in diabetes in recent years. In 2004, just 8 percent of Floridians suffered from Type-II Diabetes. Yet, just 10 short years later, 11.2 percent of Floridians are suffering from Type-II Diabetes.

While at first blush this may not seem altogether troubling, one must consider that as of U.S. census numbers from 2014, Florida has about 16 million adult residents. A three percent increase in adult diabetes means approximately 480,000 more people with the disease than just ten years ago. That is almost half a million people.

Planning for the future

If you are like many Florida seniors, you may be considering ways to protect your future, especially long-term healthcare matters. Between healthcare decision-making, end-of-life decisions, and planning for potential long-term skilled nursing care, there are a lot of considerations. Some online sources suggest that those suffering from diabetes and obesity may be more likely than average weight seniors to be admitted to a nursing home. Sadly, many nursing homes use obesity as a barrier to admissions, due to a lack of ability to serve the needs of seriously overweight seniors. Therefore, many seniors must also consider the potential added costs of obtaining quality nursing home care as they age.

If you are facing potential nursing home admission and are concerned about your options and how to finance your care, you should speak with a qualified elder law attorney. The Millhorn Elder Law Planning Group has three offices conveniently located in The Villages and is available to discuss your unique long-term goals, both personal and financial. Do not wait until you are admitted to a nursing home to begin seeking legal assistance.

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