Fund the Fight: Battling Obesity in Kentucky


As an OB/GYN in Kentucky, I have noticed a startling characteristic many of my patients. They are obese. I have moved here from Iowa and there is a drastic difference. Many of the problems I see coming into my office are obesity related. I felt I was prescribing treatment or performing surgeries that may have been preventable.  This led me to investigate the obesity problem in Kentucky. Kentucky is known for things like basketball fans, bourbonAle 8 One, horseracing, and food like the “hot brown”. brfss-self-reported-obesity-2012 According to the CDC, more than 30% of Kentucky adults are obese and that doesn’t even include those that are overweight which increases the percentage to greater than 66% Kentucky adults.

To the state’s credit, there are attempts being made to combat this problem. There was an action plan developed in 2005 and obesity is now lumped into the plan for “Unbridled Health“, but little has changed. The Partnership for a Fit Kentucky has programs available mainly targeting childhood obesity, which is a good place to start. However, the culture of obesity is so deeply ingrained in the community, teaching children alone will not solve the problem.

Bottom line is: the only group that seems to be funding this fight in a major way is the CDC. The state could and should be doing more.   Large-scale programs need to be instituted to help change the norms or the programs instituted for children in schools will never have a fighting chance. The people of Kentucky are not healthy and its time Kentucky took that seriously.  Its time to let the beauty of Kentucky be the headline and not our obesity rate.


7 Responses to “Fund the Fight: Battling Obesity in Kentucky”

  1. nkhorra21 Says:

    This is similar to the obesity epidemic that Mississippi faces (which is noted in another blog). The south appears to face higher rates of obesity than other parts of the U.S. I wonder about the similarities in legislation and policies (particularly in school cafeterias and for marketing to children on television) that are currently effective in these southern states. I would like to hear more about your personal experiences as a physician if you ever wanted to post about that topic on your own. Thank you for your post.

  2. megsullivan16 Says:

    As a Pediatrician, I agree that programs targeting childhood obesity are a good place to start. The high prevalence of children who are overweight or obese both in Kentucky and nationally is alarming. We know these children are at higher risk for significant health issues. However, as you correctly point out, focusing only on children is not enough. Research has demonstrated the strong link between parental BMI and childhood obesity. For example:

    Therefore, an effective intervention to combat childhood obesity also needs to focus on parents/adults. The Unbridled Health plan does have some good ideas to help address this epidemic but now need to be effectively enacted. Thank you for bringing attention to this issue.

  3. sseopaul Says:

    I agree that while it is important to focus on children, they are the future, that it is not enough. I wonder how long lasting these interventions with children are? Do these programs actually foster long lasting change in children if they are still seeing their parents being inactive and consuming an awful diet. I think more focus needs to be put on the family as a whole. Maybe in conjunction with some sort of school based intervention, such as re-instituting recess and PE, maybe an after school nutrition/education program for parents and a component for children.

    This is a country wide problem, though it seems to be more concentrated in the south, and if we do not get a handle on it now the trend of the life expectancy of the current generation being less than their parents will continue.

  4. gatorkatie Says:

    As a workplace health promotion practitioner I believe that for Kentucky to see a shift in its growing waistline local employers and governments through out the state need to come together to change the community and workplace culture. If we skip over the parents of the children that school programs target we are condoning a culture of “do as I say, not as I do”. Kids learn from their parents. Though there is a genetic component I know that for some southern families “fried food and sweet tea could be considered part of their DNA”. Walkable attractive communities, and workplace policies which allow for time away from the desk will be valuable tools in the fight against Kentucky’s obesity epidemic.

  5. dancinginwater Says:

    This is worth consideration:
    “Dr. Martin Blaser discusses his hypothesis that the overuse of antibiotics, c-sections, and antiseptics has permanently changed our microbiome and are causing an increase in modern diseases such as obesity, juvenile diabetes, and asthma. – See more at:

  6. sawsanjabri Says:

    I totally agree, fighting obesity programs should be a collaborative mission, including children and youth education systems( schools), community based programs ( and the policy makers … also, media could play a major role in this fight, since children are usually more common to accept what they see on TV as commercial, especially if it aired in highly watched channels.
    I found out that it is the same in Michigan: Nearly 1 in 3 children in Michigan, ages 10-17, are overweight or obese; Obesity in children ages 6-11 years has increased almost 5 fold in the last 30 years.

  7. cvshirley Says:

    Thank you for this post. Obesity continues to be an important public health concern with so many key determinants. The southeastern states of the US make up a majority of the top 10 poorest states when ranked by per capita income. The CDC reports a direct correlation between low socioeconomic status and obesity in the US ( This poses a very difficult challenge in terms of changes in culture norms and effectively implementing programs to combat this epidemic. While I agree that a focus on children is an important approach, without a change in the lifestyles and norms of the parents, these children have little opportunity to avoid the devastating outcomes associated with obesity.

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