Today's Rural Americans Aren't as Fit as Urban Americans

Report looks at correlation between rural lifestyle and health of rural Americans.

The Center for Rural Affairs released a report Tuesday that shows rural Americans in general are more obese than those who live in urban areas. This is a reversal of the situation that existed prior to 1980, when rural people were better off in terms of physical activity, nutrition and weight.

The report "Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in Rural America" was conducted by Dr. Joe Blankenau of Wayne State College in collaboration with the Center for Rural Affairs found that exercise, employment, availability and demographics were issues that contributed to this trend.

Forty years ago half of students walked or biked to school compared to less than 15% today. Fewer rural residents are employed in rigorous occupations such as farming or forestry today. Rural people are in general older and poorer and have limited availability to healthy food choices according to the report.

"As the new administration and the new Congress begin to debate health care reform, they need to keep in mind that the best long-term way to reform the health care system is to help create healthier people and healthier communities," said Jon Bailey with the Center for Rural Affairs.

The center is preparing to share more than 800 signatures and comments obtained with an online petition calling on the new administration to address health care policies.

"Everyone has a stake in creating a healthier society and everyone has responsibility to do so. As this report shows, rural people and rural communities have significant health and wellness challenges," Bailey said. "Public policy can help promote health and wellness, but each person, each family and each community in rural America has responsibility to create a healthier rural America."

The full report is available online at: http://www.cfra.org/09/01/healthreport.

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