Fat of the land: A new county initiative takes aim at obesity

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People in Pittsburgh are big of heart, large in personality and loaded with loyalty. Unfortunately, too many of them have bodies that match the size of their virtues. To be blunt, many tend to be fat.

Of course, obesity is an America-wide problem that the Pittsburgh area merely shares. In a region that holds kielbasa and pierogies among its culinary icons, this is not surprising but that doesn’t make it any less worrisome. Obesity is a killer and the enemy of good health.

That is why County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Health Department Director Karen Hacker have launched a program to promote wellness and fitness called Live Well Allegheny. County officials gathered Tuesday at the Downtown YMCA, one of the places that routinely promotes fitness.

The perception that county residents are not taking care of themselves is more than the evidence of our eyes. Surveys show that Pennsylvania itself is not doing well. The United Health Foundation reports that in terms of overall health Pennsylvania has fallen from 26th in the nation last year to 29th.

Hand-in-fat-hand with that statistic is this: Obesity in the commonwealth has risen from 28.6 percent to 29 percent, which is above the national average. In an Allegheny County Health Survey in 2009-10, 62 percent of adults in the county were overweight or obese.

It remains to be seen whether Live Well Allegheny can succeed in making a difference by coordinating existing programs and speaking up loudly without the aid of any dedicated funding. To be sure, as any dieter knows, it helps when others are encouraging, but county officials may have to make themselves unpopular in pressing the point.

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