Some cities are known for their history, some for landmarks and others for the problems they face. Something Huntington, West Virginia became known for in 2006 was the amount of obese residents they have. They were dubbed ‘The US’s fattest city’ by The Associated Press. Nearly half of the adults who live in this city were obese at the time, their own mayor weighing in at 233 pounds. Their explanation for this was that there were better things to address than the health of residents. With a poverty level lower than the national average and a tanking economy, health problems just didn’t seem like a very pressing matter.
In 2006 the general impression given by the West Virginian city was nonchalant. Although the city also led in things such as the percentage with heart disease, diabetes, and adults who had lost their teeth, they were not overly worried about it. Many said people who were residents of the city couldn’t ‘afford to get healthy’. Most workers in Huntington had low paying jobs with little or no health benefits.
Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver decided in 2008 to take on the job of completely overhauling the West Virginians’ relationship with food. He spent five months. His welcome was a mixed bag and his results are considered much the same. Some residents were skeptical of his methods and offended by his attitude while others welcomed this chance. Though results have been seen since Oliver’s show aired in 2010 there is debate on who was the cause. Something that tended to be overlooked was that there was already a movement to make the city a healthier place. The show may have helped things along but the real change has been the doing of the residents.
In February 2010, a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated the obesity rate of adults in Huntington, WV is now at 32.9%. This is extremely close to the national average for the entire nation which also has a rising obesity problem. Since the national average has risen over the past few years, the current percentage for Huntington, WV could still be above the national average from 2006.
Steps are being taken in the West Virginia city to combat the high obesity rate but as anyone with a weight problem knows, it’s a slow going process. It will take time but the ground covered in the last six years has been significant.