Walker County is ranked 65th out of 67 counties in overall health and wellbeing. Shelby County is ranked No. 1 while Lowndes County is dead last – a position from which Walker County is two years removed.
One might surmise that we are headed in the right direction by improving two spots. But 65th is nothing to brag about. To borrow a phrase used by ESPN commentators, “C’mon man!”
A well-attended meeting Friday at the CHS building in Jasper may have been the turning point in our health woes. The newly formed Walker County Health Action Partnership appears ready and willing to make a stand against an unhealthy population.
Anne Allen of Walker Baptist Medical Center is chairing the new partnership and she did not mince words Friday when talking about our obesity rate of 35 percent.
“Walker County is also ranked as the laziest county in the state. We are sitting on the couch, drinking our adult beverages and watching our football,” she said.
But I applaud Anne for making such an eye-popping comment. Someone needed to put the rubber to the road. But it’s going to take more than talking the talk. We need to walk the walk … literally.
I am certainly guilty of Anne’s observation. While I prefer a recliner, I love football and an adult beverage when watching the game. And I’m sure that most folks in Walker County, Alabama and the nation for that matter would raise their frosty mugs if they were truthful.
Exercise is the missing ingredient to a healthy lifestyle for many people. Walker County’s physical inactivity rate is 38 percent – nearly double the national rate of 21 percent.
And there is a proven correlation between obesity and poverty. Obesity is more prevalent in adults who earn less than $15,000 per year, the unemployed and adults who did not graduate high school.
Obesity-related health problems include Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, arthritis, cancer and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Approximately 33 percent of cancer deaths are linked to obesity or lack of physical activity.
Twenty-two percent of our population falls below the poverty line compared to 16 percent nationally. Thirty percent of our children fall below the poverty line compared to 23 percent nationally.
We can do better, a lot better.
You don’t need a fitness club membership to exercise. Walk the block a time or two. Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
Let’s just get moving, Walker County.
Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.