Arkansas, Mississippi rank in the top of obese states

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The numbers are in and it doesn't look good for the Mid-South. A new list of states with the highest obesity rates had two Mid-South states in the top three.

"I'd say 90% of the people I know are either on fixed incomes or they don't have jobs," said Jack Orme on Tuesday.

Orme said that's one of the reasons he thinks his home state of Arkansas was ranked number one when it comes to obesity.

It wasn't the only Mid-South state with an alarming rate.

According to a research project by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 35.9% of adults in Arkansas are obese.

Mississippi was not far behind at number three with 35.5%.

Tennessee ranked 14th at 31.2%

"They can't buy good meat or vegetables or things like that," explained Orme.

Access to healthy foods is one problem, but on Tuesday Shelby County and other leaders came together to address some of the deeper rooted issues.

They met for the community health improvement plan, known as CHIP, to talk about mental health, healthy lifestyles, health and violence, and healthcare disparities.

Angela Moore, one of the events organizers, said the concept started after a community health assessment and now it's about bringing groups together.

"Community partners, organizations that range from academia, as well as non-profits, government and anybody in between have committed to action items in the plan, dealing with obesity," said Moore.

Americans spend $147 billion on obese-related issues.

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell, who is part of the improvement plan, said tackling the issues of diabetes, hypertension and obesity starts with education.

"Trying to teach people you don't just go to the doctor when sick but you go to prevent illness," he said.

He believed the pieces of the puzzle, strong hospitals and health care programs, are here in the Mid-South.

It's a matter of coordination.

"Now we're trying to put a little more structure to infrastructure so that we can grow in collaboration so that we can grow throughout the community to tackle these very significant health issues."

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