I posted this elsewhere, but Namahottie replied, “this could be its own thread,” and I agree (it almost was the first time). So here it is.
[quote]HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As a portly woman plodded ahead of him on the sidewalk, the obese mayor of America’s fattest and unhealthiest city explained why health is not a big local issue.
“It doesn’t come up,” said David Felinton, 5-foot-9 and 233 pounds, as he walked toward City Hall one recent morning. “We’ve got a lot of economic challenges here in Huntington. That’s usually the focus.”
Huntington’s economy has withered, its poverty rate is worse than the national average, and vagrants haunt a downtown riverfront park. But this city’s financial woes are not nearly as bad as its health.
Nearly half the adults in Huntington’s five-county metropolitan area are obese — an astounding percentage, far bigger than the national average in a country with a well-known weight problem.
Huntington leads in a half-dozen other illness measures, too, including heart disease and diabetes. It’s even tops in the percentage of elderly people who have lost all their teeth (half of them have). . .
Shari Wiley is a nurse at St. Mary’s Regional Heart Institute in Huntington. . ."A lot of the patients we were seeing were getting heart attacks in their 30s. They were requiring open heart surgery in their 30s. . .
The Huntington area is essentially tied with a few other metro areas for proportion of people who don’t exercise (31 percent), have heart disease (22 percent) and diabetes (13 percent). The smoking rate is pretty high, too, although not the worst.
However, the region is a clear-cut leader in dental problems, with nearly half the people age 65 and older saying they have lost all their natural teeth. And no other metro area comes close to Huntington’s adult obesity rate. . .
Poverty hovers, with the area rate at 19 percent, much higher than the national average. In the hilly coal fields to the South, people still live in houses or trailers with drooping, battered roofs. They stare hard at any stranger in a new car. In Huntington and its outskirts, many people think of exercise and healthy eating as luxuries. . .
The online Yellow Pages lists more pizza places (nearly 200) for the Huntington area than the entire state of West Virginia has gyms and health clubs (149). . .
Fast food has become a staple, with many residents convinced they can’t afford to buy healthier foods. . .
Lack of exercise is another concern. During a warm and sunny autumn week in Huntington — the kind of weather that would bring out small armies of joggers in some cities — it was unusual to see a runner or bicyclist. . .
When the health department tried to restrict smoking in local bars and restaurants, a group of local businesses fought it all the way to the state Supreme Court. (The restrictions were upheld in 2003.) Even hospitals have fought smoking restrictions . . .
Walden is a third generation physician in the area, but he’s also traveled extensively around the world. He says it’s always a little jolting coming home and realizing how obese his hometown is compared to the rest of the world.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been in a place where I’ve seen so many overweight people,” he said[/quote]
Yikes, what a hopeless tangle of ignorance, poverty and poor health. And what a horrible place to live. On top of all of the above,24.3% of adults 18 years-of-age or older in Huntington, WV, report themselves as in poor to fair health! Ugh.
I know a little about West Virginia, because I lived there for three years. It’s very beautiful. John Denver was right, it’s almost Heaven. 3/4 of the state is national forest and there’s lots of great hiking, rock climbing and whitewater kayaking. But there’s also plenty of long-time poverty, ignorance, provincialism and just plain stupidity, including people dumping old cars, refrigerators and other trash off the side of hte road in beautiful wilderness areas. People don’t often move in to the area (we did and were definitely regarded as outsiders); instead they’re 5th, 6th, 7th generation locals. The article is exactly right that a foreigner driving through in a new car would get plenty of stares. So there’s not a lot of new blood, bringing new ideas, new opportunities and growth. The internet explosion and globalization never quite reached West Virginia. And the old ways, as is always the case, get stale, stagnant and less productive. The old economy, of hard-working, low-paid, coal mining, trucking and manufacturing, has withered over the decades, leaving the impoverished, obese, toothless stragglers described in that article.
This isn’t meant as criticism of West Virgina, per se. There are plenty of washed-up, provicincial, economically depressed backwaters, with stagnant populations, stagnant mentalities and pathetic, depressing lifestyles. I think housecat, who I believe lives in Arkansas, has seen much of the same. There are lots of pockets of the same throughout the US and probably in many other countries.
Anyway, it’s sad how poverty, poor health and low level education and jobs all go together at times, not that it’s surprising, but it’s really a triple whammy: some people get stuck with all the crap.