>A big FAT "F"

>In a comparison of the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States, Birmingham ranks near the bottom in an index of healthiness.

This was reported in the Birmingham News, and most of this post comes directly from that article.

We ranked 49th, just ahead of Oklahoma City.

In a year, we’ve dropped from 43rd to 49th. Either other cities are improving and leaving us behind (an Alabama staple in many areas, it seems) or we have just completely abandoned any thought of improving ourselves health wise.

The percentage of our population that is obese is 34.1%. That is more than one out of every three of the people around you. The national average among Metropolitan Statistical Areas is 25.6%, just over one out of every four people.

I think that a large number of people are in denial about their health. Be honest with yourselves, folks.

Your life expectancy, and even more important, your quality of life as you approach the end of it, depend on your attitudes and actions regarding your health.

When it comes to 14 personal health indicators and chronic health conditions, Birmingham ranked dead last.

A couple of statistics give Birmingham a glimmer of hope, though they are nothing to brag about. We are 35th out of 50 when it comes to community recreation, including the number of parks and recreation facilities and the level of state-required physical education programs.

Birmingham has considered closing rec centers, however, and Bessemer has none.

Birmingham ranks above average when it comes to the number of Farmer’s Markets, park playgrounds, recreation centers, swimming pools and requirements for physical education in schools, but below average on the number of tennis courts (Birmingham MSA – 1.3%, MSA average – 2.1%), acres of park land per capita ( Birmingham MSA – 2.6%, Average – 10.3%) and percent of people walking or riding their bicycles to work (Birmingham – 1%, Average – 2.8%).

Birmingham spends $37 per capita on funding parks. The average is $102.

Jerri Haslem has taught exercise classes in Birmingham for 20 years. These are sad statistics, she said, calling it the “mindset” of the people and not a lack of opportunity.

If people would use the facilities we have more, then more would be built, she believes. She says a large fitness club might look at our area and say there aren’t enough fitness minded people to build here. On the other hand she, says, a fast food company might take a look at our statistics and see a big opportunity. I’m not sure what she means by that.

An opportunity to exploit our “mindset” that propels us to fast food restaurants? Or an opportunity to improve their menus and the quality of food that they serve, so that they do not continue to adversely affect the health of our communities?

Because of $13.3 million in Federal Stimulus money given through the CDC and the Jefferson County Department of Health, many of the issues in the report will be addressed.

Included will be a push for smoke-free air policies in Jefferson County’s cities and a requirement that restaurants post nutritional information a the point of purchase. Also included will be working with school nutrition and exercise policies and working with neighborhood development such as requiring sidewalks and building greenways to connect parks .

Other health indicators:

Death rate per 100,000 for cardiovascular disease – Birmingham MSA – 259.3, Average – 212.4

Diabetes – Birmingham MSA – 11%, Average 8.3%.

Here’s a link to the full report.

Here’s a community action guide that you or me or our group or agency can use to develop healthier communities.

Here’s a link to all of Birmingham’s statistics in this report (click on the city you want to view).

Housekeeping. I have changed the Facebook share button that appears on each post. By clicking it, you should be able to easily share this or any post with your friends on Facebook.

Coming soon, Twitter share and others. What Share button would you like to see?

Also, Bessemer Opinions is now available in 9 languages other than English. Use the translator at the top of the left sidebar and click on the flag representing the language you want to view. Maybe you can then send the translated post (by copying the link) to your friends that spea that language. Play around with it. Let me know what you think.

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