Arizona prof gets grant to fight obesity

Posted: Updated:

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A professor at the University of Arizona's hoping to battle the bulge in Tucson.

We all love our burgers and beer, but too much.  Like nearly two-thirds of Arizona adults, you could be battling the belly bulge.

"There's much that we can do to make it easier to make a healthy choice," said Professor Merrill Eisenberg from the U of A College of Public Health.

According to the annual report "F as in Fat: How obesity threatens America's future," Arizona ranks as the 35th most obese state.

Mississippi takes the title for fattest state.

"Obesity has been on the rise since the early 80s nationwide, we're not the only state," said Eisenberg

Professor Eisenberg is using a $16 million federal grant awarded to Pima County to fight obesity. She says the weight gain has to do with larger portions and community planning.

"We don't build our communities so that there are places within walking and biking distance where we can work, do our business, go to the post office," said Eisenberg.

The result is less physical activity and more calorie consumption, and a rise in obesity that impacts everyone, whether skinny or fat.

"It's costing each and every one of us per capita, $500 a year in health care costs, whether you're obese or not, its coming out of your taxes which pay for medicare or medicaid," said Eisenberg.

Professor Eisenberg and her colleagues want to raise awareness. For starters, they want to get rid of what she calls the "Food Deserts" across Tucson.

"In some places we have food deserts in Tucson; areas where you cannot find a supermarket within walking distance where you can buy a banana," said Eisenberg.

Eisenberg says eating right, accompanied by exercise is key to getting people back on track. 

Dr. Eisenberg and her colleagues are also working on a healthy restaurant program and they're hoping to facilitate more community gardens across the city.