We’re Fat … And Living Dangerously

Our weight? Howard Koh, the state’s public health commissioner, says it is, literally and figuratively, a growing concern.

Not surprisingly, poor Bay Staters are almost twice as likely to be obese as rich people. After all, a box of pasta goes a lot further, is more filling, and is cheaper than a banana.

Also not surprising is the fact that people who exercise or who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables have lower rates of obesity.

So, how fat are we? According to state statistics, 64 percent of all men and 42 percent of all women are overweight. That’s a 30 percent increase in just the last decade.

More married men than single men are classified as having weight problems but more single women than married women have weight problems.

The study showed that a third of children ages two to five are in risk of becoming overweight, that Hispanic men and women are most likely to be overweight, that Black men and women are most likely to be obese.

The good news is, our state is the fourth slimmest in the nation.

Moving right along…let’s look at seatbelt usage.

We’re constantly hearing about teenagers who die in accidents on our roads. More likely than not, they weren’t wearing seatbelts.A state study shows that less than a quarter of the teens ages 16 to 19 who were killed in automobile accidents were wearing seatbelts.

That’s the worst rate of seat belt use in the nation.

A spokesman for the Air Bag and Seatbelt Safety Campaign in Washington, DC, said, "Massachusetts is in the bottom quarter of the United States and will remain there unless and until they adopt a strong seat belt law and strictly and fairly enforce it."

Well, his "they" is us. And it’s unlikely that the legislature will change our state’s seat belt laws, which mandate seat belt use but doesn’t allow police to stop drivers solely for not being buckled up.

We’ve always cited an interest in protecting individual liberties, and rejected legislation that would allow police to stop us if we’re not wearing our safety belts. The legislation died in the current session of the legislature when the House had a tie vote. (I think it’s the only tie vote we’ve had in my eight years in the House.)

Did you miss yesterday’s holiday? It was Philanthropy Day. Don’t ask me why. It was just one of those feel-good things that the Senate and House agreed on, in an informal session, in August. The Governor is supposed to issue an official proclamation every November 15th in honor of the day.

What should you do if you meet a bear? Advice from Jim Cardoza, Bear Project Manager for MassWildlife in the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife is: "Treat it like you would a 150 pound skunk." That means, leave it alone.

When visitors enter the House Chamber in our State House, they see five murals over the Speaker’s Desk. With life-sized figures in vivid colors, they tell small bits of our state’s history.

The first, on the left as you look up, is from 1630, with Governor Winthrop bringing the Charter of the Bay Colony to Massachusetts.

Governor Winthrop, Sir Richard Saltonstall and the Reverend George Phillips are shown landing from the Arbella in Salem on June 30, 1630. On the beach to greet them are John Endicott and some of the settlers. The document granted a Governor, with a court of assistants and freemen, the right to govern the present area of Massachusetts (except Plymouth Colony which came later).

And that was the beginning of our General Court.

Right now, that Court is meeting only in informal sessions. Nothing controversial can be accomplished, which means that any one person can stop any legislation or resolution or any other action proposed.

Next week, there will be a session of the House of Representatives but, again, only an informal session. It’s the day that those of us leaving by choice or by a vote of our constituents will be saying farewell to our fellow members.

I’ll let you know what I decide to say. Right now, I only know that I am glad I am leaving voluntarily, and that I will miss the work I’ve done and the friends I’ve made, here in Westfield and Montgomery and in the State House.

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