New results from a study on obesity cautions public health professionals not to abandon location-based initiatives just yet. It found that people in rural areas are significantly more obese than people in metropolitan areas, 40 percent versus 33 percent respectively. These findings are not earth shattering, and probably uphold a common stereotype of rural residents. But what it does signal is a need for programs/services in the rural areas of the United States.
It’s arguable that city life adds pressure (via increased peer pressure) to maintain a healthy weight. But since a healthy weight should be everyone’s goal, the study points out that there are areas in this country full of people who just don’t have the resources to make better lifestyle decisions. The study attributes this difference in weight to lack of exercise facilities, increased unhealthy diet, and lower household incomes. Rather than just enforcing stereotypes of rural residents, the study calls for public health professionals to look into ways to educate rural residents on their diet choices and find ways to get them moving, even if the closest gym or biking trail is more than 20 miles away.
The study found that the group with the largest obesity difference was in adults ages 20–39. In that age group, about 38 percent of rural residents were obese, compared to about 28 percent of urban residents. The gap also was larger among blacks, with nearly 56 percent of those rural residents obese compared to about 43 percent of urban residents.
Befort, C. A., Nazir, N. and Perri, M. G. (2012), Prevalence of Obesity Among Adults From Rural and Urban Areas of the United States: Findings From NHANES (2005-2008). The Journal of Rural Health, 28: 392–397.