Hefty in Hub City

A Gallup Poll ranked Hagerstown as one of the fattest cities in Maryland

May 10, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
Photo illustration by Chad Trovinger,

First we're called ugly, now a recent poll has called Hagerstown residents unhealthy.

Hub City ranked low in overall well-being for cities in Maryland in a Gallup Poll-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey, conducted in 2009.

But really, how fat are we?

The outlook appears heavy.

The Gallup pollsters interviewed at least 1,000 U.S. residents every day in 2008, except major holidays. The responses were used to measure what the survey defined as six domains of well being - life evaluation, emotional health, physical behavior, healthy behavior, work environment and basic access to food, shelter, health care and a safe and satisfying place to life.

Based on the responses, Hagerstown ranked 168 out of the 185 cities, putting it in the fifth and lowest quintile.

As a state, Maryland ranked 14th. Hawaii topped the list.

West Virginia ranked last, at No. 50.

Roderick A. MacRae, spokesman for the Washington County Public Health Department, said the polling methodology used in the survey was valid and produced accurate results.


Body mass index or BMI is a widely used measure for body fat and is computed based from a person's height and weight.

A BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight; a BMI of between 30 and 99.8 is considered obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC data, nearly 64 percent of Washington County residents were either overweight or obese in 2008.

Obesity is a public health concern because its linked to death and diseases such as diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder of the metabolism resulting from the body's inability to use sugar in the blood for energy, resulting in hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar. Blood glucose is used as fuel for the body, and insulin helps the body use glucose as fuel, explained Dr. Vishal Datta, a Hagerstown-based endocrinologist. Diabetes can be treated through a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

If left untreated, diabetes can lead to death, Datta said.

He said the majority of his patients have type 2 diabetes

MacRae said in Washington County, the death rate from type 2 diabetes has consistently been high.

"This has been a concern for us for several years," MacRae said.

He referenced 2008 figures from the Maryland Vital Statistics Report, part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

According to the report, Washington County had the highest reported death rate for type 2 diabetes with 36.6 deaths per 100,000 people in Washington County. The second highest rate was Baltimore City, at 29.2 deaths per 100,000 people.

MacRae said that state data for Washington County might be skewed due to the small sample size, but said the death rate was cause for concern.

MacRae said data specific to Hagerstown was not collected by the state.

According to the report, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death for Marylanders in 2008, when 22 diabetes deaths per 100,000 people were reported.

Datta said he counsels his patients about the consequences of diabetes at his practices, Endocrinology Consultants, in Hagerstown.

"It's a big challenge," Datta said. "It's easy to tell someone they need to eat well and lose weight, but they have to do it."

Datta said patients who do change their eating habits and become more active are able to manage their diabetes without medication.

"That's the message we should be passing along to our children," Datta said.

How Hagerstown Ranked

The Gallup Poll-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey used six indicators to determine the wellness of Hagerstown.

Here's how Hagerstown ranked, out of 185 cities:

o Life evaluation - 162

o Emotional health - 181

o Physical health -161

o Healthy behavior - 182

o Work environment - 60

o Basic access to food, shelter, health care and a safe place to live - 148

o Overall ranking - 168

- Source: "State of Well-Being, 2009 City, State & Congressional District Well-Being Report, Maryland," Gallup Poll-Healthways Well-Being Index Survey

How to calculate BMI

Compute BMI by dividing the square of the your height (in inches) body weight (in pounds) and then multiply that by 703, or you can use the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute's online BMI calculator, at http://www.nhlbisup

What is a healthy BMI?

According to the NHLBI, BMI is categorized as follows:

o Underweight- less than 18.5

o Normal weight -18.5 to 24.9

o Overweight - 25 to 29.9

o Obesity - 30 or greater

Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute,

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