Unhealthiest City in the U.S.

Earlier this week, I spotlighted a report on the five fittest cities in the U.S. What I neglected to include was the data on the unhealthiest city. So, let’s take a look at the bottom of the list: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

This year’s American Fitness Index report examined 30 factors in reaching their health grades for the cities. Some of the criteria include measures of the cities’ disease rates, mortality, physical attributes and lifestyle choices.

In some of the unhealthiest big cities, one of every three people are obese. While it’s often said that it is “lonely at the top,” that can’t compare to the despair of being at the bottom as the unhealthiest city in the U.S.

“There are issues here that are real that we’re not running away from. We have an obesity problem,” says Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett.

But the mayor defends his hometown, saying that they are unduly penalized because of how the criteria is set up. I don’t mean to sound harsh but… no excuses. I know it’s natural to be defensive if someone points out a flaw in us, and this is particularly true for politicians who think it’s wise to stand up for the place you represent, but the facts are the facts.

However, you can’t say there isn’t any effort to improve things in Oklahoma City. Two years ago Oklahoma City launched the website ThisCityIsGoingOnADiet.com, where more than 41,000 people have registered to record how much weight they have lost. To date the city’s participants have lost more than a half a million pounds! Their goal is the million pound mark.

“It is not OK for anyone to be obese,” Cornett says. “There needs to be a cultural shift.”

Part of that cultural shift is an effort to add infrastructure to Oklahoma City that supports fitness. Currently, the city only has half as many parks, tennis courts, swimming pools and recreation centers per capita as other similar cities. But, with a new bond issue, the city will add gymnasiums inside urban schools, 53 miles of bike trails, 450 miles of new sidewalks. There are also plans for a 77-acre city park and a downtown pedestrian mall that will be 180 acres.

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