The Palmetto State fell from 41st to 45th in America’s Health Rankings 2011 from United Health Foundation, released Tuesday.
Georgia remained at 37th after a substantial improvement in the previous year’s ranking, but that might be because other states fared worse, said. Catherine Palmier, the Southeast region chief medical officer for United Healthcare.
Both states have seen a drop in smoking during the past 10 years, but that has been offset by increasing obesity, she said.
“Though you can consider that a bright spot, the reality is – and this is really for the entire country – every person that quits smoking is replaced by a person who becomes obese,” Palmier said. “So though it is good that we have less smoking, we don’t move our overall health status as a country or as South Carolina or Georgia, because of the increase in obesity.”
South Carolina weighed in at 32 percent obese – 47th among the states – and Georgia ballooned to 30.4 percent – 38th nationally – putting it among what some have called “the dirty 30” for the dozen states that top 30 percent obesity.
A decade ago, no state had 30 percent obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity is linked to other disorders such as diabetes and heart disease, and to certain cancers, Palmier said.
It can interfere with screening methods but may also have hormonal or chemical links to the development of colon or ovarian cancers that are still not well-understood, she said.
“Doctors in the past have thought that fat was just kind of an inert thing that you lived with when you became obese, but we’ve now realized that fat is a very active hormonal organ, meaning that there is a variety of hormones and chemicals excreted by fat that do affect other systems of your body,” Palmier said.
More troubling, the report does not directly address increasing rates of childhood obesity, she said.
“Unfortunately, we’re probably going to have more of a problem with obesity if we don’t decrease the rate of obesity in children,” said Palmier, a pediatrician.
Her company, for instance, urges pediatricians and family physicians to address overweight and obesity issues with parents and is working with school systems in Hall and Bibb counties.
The report found that America’s health has declined 69 percent in the past decade after improving from 1990 to 2000. State positions change year from year, but that is a disturbing trend, Palmier said.
“Our overall health as a country has really stagnated,” she said.