Jackson battles fat crisis

The summation of an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat allows that “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

An absence of leadership and vision leaves Jackson without goals and optimal outcomes. The dearth of focus is “the elephant in the living room” during the municipal elections. Unfortunately, pervasive inertia defines the city rather than its becoming known for attributes accentuated by design.

While Jackson has yet to become known as being the Pothole Capital of North America, the Jackson metropolitan area was recently designated as the “Fattest City in America.”

According to WalletHub, “Americans are the fattest people in the world. By one measure, more than 70 percent of the U.S. population aged 15 and older is overweight or obese. But such a finding should come as no surprise, considering the proliferation of fast-food establishments and increasingly cheaper grocery items that have negatively altered our diets. Unfortunately, the extra pounds have inflated the costs of obesity-related medical treatment to nearly $316 billion a year and annual productivity losses due to work absenteeism to more than $8.6 billion.”

Such a grim assessment would be bad enough even if Jackson were not the metropolitan area that is most emblematic of our being the fattest nation anywhere in the world: To be the worst of the worst takes an ignominious distinction to a higher level altogether.

Are these the type of distinctions for which we want our city to be known? Unless Jacksonians decide what they want to achieve and how they wish to advance the city's reputation, a cityscape that appears as if in a warzone and health outcomes lower than those found in third and fourth world countries are the leading edge of what is to be anticipated after 25 or 50 years further disinvestment in future prosperity. It would be folly to anticipate anything other than the geometric accentuation of where the city is today if the past is predicate.

WalletHub found that Jackson had a total score of 84.93, over two percentage points above the second fattest city in America, Memphis TN-MS-AR. Jackson is Number One in both its overall rank and in "Weight-Related Health Problems." It is Number Two in "Obesity and Overweight." It is Number 22 in "Healthy Environment"; where Memphis TN-MS-AR ranks Number One.

Jackson has the highest percentage of diabetic adults.

Jackson is second to McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas, in having the highest percentage of physically inactive adults. Jackson is second to Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark., which is the third fattest city in America, as having the highest percentage of adults eating fewer than one serving of fruits / vegetables per day.

Jackson is fourth in the rankings of the highest percentage of adults with high blood pressure.

One wants for words in the face of such statistics. They do not occur without clear connection between cause and effect; choices being made; very bad choices, no one can deny.

The Jackson metropolitan area is in the midst of a major health crisis. No one seems to be disturbed by the fact nor curious about what changes need to be made in order to pull the city from its fatal trajectory.

It is rather amazing that people are not "running for cover," as if Londoners during the Blitz. The bad judgment that finds the Jackson metropolitan area as the fattest city in the fattest country in the world continues unabated.

Perhaps an equivalent of Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" is warranted: Healthy food choices would seem to be first among the "No" needed: No fast food and no junk food wherever it is bought. Processed food at the grocery store needs to become a "no-no." Massive education and re-education are needed to save people from themselves.

What is eaten, when it is eaten, and where it is eaten need to be carefully considered. Daily exercise is in order. Cut the sugar, cut the calories, and cut the alcohol. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Cut the colas and the carbohydrates. Otherwise one risks dying of disease.

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough: Being rated the fattest city in America is a wake-up call. The air raid sirens are blasting. Take cover or be carnage. The alert is serious, and it ought to be approached with utmost sobriety.

The failure to take immediate action and make crucial changes has consequences. The inability to elect leaders who will create consensus to take Jackson to a better place will find the city defined by its diversion from the discipline and focus necessary to reach optimal outcomes.

Otherwise the day might be envisioned when Hinds, Madison, and Rankin County license plates might be emblazoned with a variation on a theme of the North Carolina license plate that proudly proclaims "First In Flight": "First In Fat."

Jay Wiener is a Northsider.

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