In case you didn’t know, March is National Nutrition Month and our survey friends over at wallethub.com decided to honor this celebration by ranking the fattest cities in the country.
If you’re surprised by the fact that four Tennessee cities made the top 20, then you haven’t been outside in a while. Louisiana did have three cities make the top 20 while North Carolina had two. And in another not very shocking fact, aside from Canton, Ohio, McAllen Texas and Tulsa, Okla., all of the top 20 cities were in the South.
Memphis was number four, Knoxville was sixth, Chattanooga 12th and Nashville was relatively skinny at 16. The findings were based on various things, including number of obese adults, number of adults who don’t exercise, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, how much fruit and vegetables we eat (or don’t eat) and how many of us are diabetic.
For what it’s worth, Little Rock, Ark. was ranked as the fattest city in America. They were only ninth in obesity, but when it came to health, fitness and eating habits, they were tops in being the worst. And Memphis borders Arkansas. Maybe there’s something going on out there.
To bring this thing a little closer to home, The Robert Johnson Foundation recently released its ranking of the healthiest counties by state. There are 95 counties in Tennessee. Monroe County ranked 59th in health, meaning we’re less than average when it comes to taking care of ourselves.
According to this study, between 1997-2014, an estimated 10,200 of us died a premature death. The average life span is around 78 years now, but this study looked at deaths before 75 so this basically means if you died at 74 or earlier, you were considered to have died a premature death. This is above the state average of 8,800. I didn’t find anything about truly premature deaths, where you suddenly keel over at 45.
When it comes to quality of life, we’re way down there at 69. Twenty-two percent of us have poor or fair health, 5.1 percent of us have bad health days (you don’t feel good) and five percent have poor mental health days (when you just can’t take it anymore!). Nine percent of babies have low birth weight, but that’s average for the state, though when you break it down, it’s 27 percent for black babies, nine percent for white babies and six percent for hispanic babies.
When it comes to health behaviors we’re way down the list at 75. Twenty-three percent of us are smokers, which I find astounding in this day and age. Is it still considered “cool” to smoke? And if so, why?
Thirty-six percent of us are obese, and 33 percent are physically inactive even though 78 percent of us have access to some kind of exercise, even if it’s just walking around a park. And it’s probably not a coincidence that physical inactivity and obesity are so close in terms of numbers.
Thirteen percent of us are heavy drinkers which, honestly, seems a little low. And probably not a coincidence either, between 2008-2016, 39 percent of traffic fatalities involved alcohol in some way.
Between 2008-2015, Monroe County averaged 261 sexually transmitted diseases per year, though that was well below the state average of 477. So, high five on that, I suppose. We also averaged 51 teen births a year, or about one a week. That was well above the state average of 36.
In other areas, 14 percent of us don’t have health insurance, which isn’t too bad; there is one doctor for every 3,810 patients; one dentist for every 2,870 patients; and one mental health provider for every 2,700 patients. We also averaged 63 preventable hospital stays between 2007-2015, and 87 percent of us are monitored regularly for either having diabetes or being in danger of getting diabetes. Ties into that obesity thing, I guess.
Continuing, 95 percent of us are high school graduates while 38 percent have some college. Twenty-six percent of children live in poverty while 31 percent live in single parent households. Between 2004-2016 we averaged 406 violent crimes per year and had 100 injury deaths.
Fifteen percent have severe housing problems, 88 percent drive alone to work and 40 percent have a long commute (20 minutes or more) where they drive alone.
So, there you have it. The state of Monroe County’s health and the overall fatness of the state. Were you surprised or does it sound about right?