In Huntington, W. Va., the residents don’t talk much about living in the fattest city in America. Most of them probably don’t even realize it, according to health officials. Most people, says the city’s overweight mayor, are much more worried about the economy. Businesses and even hospitals fought smoking bans.
We can’t help but see the parallels. Whether it’s looking at obesity, diabetes or heart disease, Oklahoma’s among the nation’s unhealthiest states. There are myriad efforts to improve Oklahoma’s health statistics and the general health of Oklahomans. From smoking restrictions to school-based nutrition education to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s citywide diet challenge, ideas abound for making us a healthier city and state. But an obstacle both here and in West Virginia is one of culture that takes time – and a lot of it – to change.
Southern food’s always been on the fatty side, with fried chicken and chicken fried steak longtime staples. Fast food is also a mainstay with so many families struggling to pay the bills. By comparison, fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive.
Health officials here and in West Virginia aren’t giving up on the idea of improving health statistics. But it won’t happen quickly.