Detroit No Longer America's Fattest City

Contact: T.J. Bucholz (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

January 11, 2005

For the past seven years, Men’s Fitness magazine has ranked America’s cities from the “fattest” to the “fittest.” This year, Detroit dropped from the nation’s fattest city to number three, behind Houston and Philadelphia. But Dr. Kimberlydawn Wisdom, Michigan Surgeon General, warns that Detroit and the rest of Michigan still have a long way to go.

“Detroit is no longer the fattest city – that’s good news. But that doesn’t mean our problems have gone away,” Wisdom said. “We have to continue to be vigilant in our efforts to promote healthy lifestyles to every adult and child in Detroit and across Michigan.”

The findings presented in the February issue of Men’s Fitness were determined by weighing elements like number of health clubs, participation in sports, number of fast-food outlets and doughnut stores, number of bars, air quality, commute time, and weather patterns.

The study also used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the Environmental Protection Agency. According to the magazine, Detroit improved from last year in terms of air quality and health care (which includes available health resources, access to care, and cost of hospital stay and doctors’ visits).

“Although the study in Men’s Fitness was not entirely scientific, we are grateful to the magazine for raising public awareness about a problem that the scientific community has known about for a long time,” she said.

Approximately 62 percent of adults in Michigan are overweight or obese, and only 4 percent of adults engage in four essential healthy lifestyles: healthy weight, adequate fruit and vegetable intake, adequate physical activity, and no smoking. These are the areas in which Detroit remained low, according to the report.

According to Wisdom, there is still a lot of room for improvement in Detroit and across Michigan. For example, families need access to fresh fruits and vegetables and safe places to be active.

“Citizens need incentives to engage in a healthy lifestyle,” Wisdom said. “Undertaking a significant change requires public education, policy change, informing the public, and a comprehensive statewide social movement.”

Many communities in Michigan are working hard to create this change. For example, last year, Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick launched “Movement For Life,” a 12-month citywide health and wellness initiative to create a healthier city. Kilpatrick challenged all Detroit citizens to adopt a healthier lifestyle, including getting regular preventive care, exercising more, eating better, and getting more sleep and relaxation.

“We cannot have a thriving, growing city if our citizens are unhealthy," Kilpatrick said. "Through Movement For Life, we are working hard to educate the people of Detroit and provide opportunities for them to live a healthy lifestyle – and it's starting to show."

Wisdom hopes to see even greater commitment across the state this year through her statewide healthy lifestyles campaign called

“Michigan Steps Up: Move More, Eat Better, Don’t Smoke…It’s That Simple.” Michigan Steps Up is designed to build community capacity, share resources, reduce health risk factors, and improve health outcomes. The campaign will provide a marketing umbrella for health promotion efforts across the state, enhancing their impact as parts of a unified campaign with broad public recognition. It will take place over three years and will include components such as an interactive website (which will be announced soon), a media campaign, community competitions, conferences, and stakeholder meetings.