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Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM

State Chief Health Officer warns of health killers

Alabama’s chief health officer told a crowd of Marshall County residents at the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce Annual Healthcare Breakfast that two killers attacking the state are smoking and obesity.

As a result, today’s children are expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

“This is the first time in history that has happened,” said Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

While strides have been made in lowering the rate of smoking in the U.S., it has not happened because of people’s efforts to be healthier. Rather, it is a result of second-hand smoking laws and the high price of cigarettes, Dr. Williamson said. Alabama has close to the lowest tobacco tax in the country, and almost the highest number of smokers.

Obesity is at 65 percent in the nation, and one out of nine Alabama residents is diabetic.

“It’s not getting better,” he said, recommending that incentives for eating healthier could be the answer. That could mean cutting taxes on healthy food or tax breaks for those who exercise.

Despite the political controversy swirling around Medicaid, Dr. Williams was emphatic about Alabama’s reliance on it.

  • 53 percent of all births in the state are from mothers on Medicaid
  • 45 percent of all Alabama children are insured by Medicaid
  • 62 percent of people in nursing homes are supported by Medicaid

“Medicaid is built into the whole healthcare infrastructure of the state,” he said. “If you’re going to have a healthcare system in Alabama, you are going to have to fund Medicaid.”

The Annual Healthcare Breakfast is sponsored by Marshall Medical Centers.