Photo: Steve Baker (Flickr)
Indiana ranked 41st out of all 50 states when it comes to health, according to a report published Tuesday by America‘s Health Ranking. The report includes factors such as smoking, obesity, and other preventable issues such as teen pregnancy and high school graduation rates.
State Health Commissioner Greg Larkin says Indiana’s high rates of smoking and obesity are troubling but thinks programs now in place could better those numbers.
“These sort of risk factors, obesity and percent of smokers, are like turning an aircraft carrier,” he says. “It’s going to take a while even though we have some new tools in place.”
Larkin cites the state’s new public smoking ban and the Department of Health’s “Obesity Control Plan for Communities” as new initiatives that could improve Hoosiers’ health.
David Lohrmann, professor and interim chair of the Department of Applied Health Science at the Indiana University School of Public Health, says to break the cycle of obesity in Indiana, schools need to be on the front line.
“One of the things that really seems to be exciting and effective in schools is something as simple as providing fresh fruits and vegetables for kids to taste and to have during the day,” he says.
Lohrmann says the easy access to fast food, especially in communities with high obesity rates, is cause of concern. He says cheap, nutritious food needs to be accessible to all Hoosiers.
As more Hoosiers battle obesity related illnesses, Lohrmann says employers and those who fund health care costs will need to take a more pro-active approach to healthy living.
“Somebody has to figure out that not only for the state of Indiana, but the employers in Indiana, healthy eating and regular physical activity are the keys to reducing obesity and especially diabetes,” he says.
Indiana’s number 41 ranking is the worst ever for the Hoosier state and is four spots worse than it rated in 2011.