FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2012
COLUMBIA, S.C. - June marks the observance of Obesity Awareness Month by proclamation of Governor Nikki Haley to encourage residents to prevent obesity and make healthier decisions in their day-to-day lives year-round, the state Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today.
"Obesity is linked to eating unhealthy foods and not being physically active, which increases the risk for chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain cancers," said Erika Kirby, director of DHEC's Division of Obesity Prevention and Control. "In South Carolina, we have high rates of chronic diseases that are tied to poor nutrition, physical inactivity and rates of obesity."
Kirby said more than half of all Americans, and 67 percent of all South Carolinians, are overwieght or obese. One-third of the state's high school students and 28 percent of low-income children ages 2 to 5 are overweight or obese. She said obesity also places a $1 billion healthcare burden on the state each year --- almost half of which is paid by taxpayers through Medicare and Medicaid.
"We must continue to provide education about healthy alternatives so that our children and citizens can have increased access to healthy foods and safe places to be active," she said.
Kirby said DHEC has joined community partners through the Eat Smart, Move More Coalition and other organizations to coordinate obesity prevention and healthy lifestyle efforts across the state.
"If obesity among children continues to increase at the current rate, our current generation could become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents," said Beth Barry, chairman of Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina. "For many South Carolinians, fresh fruits and vegetables are out of reach simply because they're not an affordable option or they're not available where people shop."
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