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Obesity and Coronavirus – High Death Rate in New Orleans

Obesity and Coronavirus – High Death Rate in New Orleans 1

United States Map of Obesity Prevalence by State (2018)

The CDC released a report this week showing that 78% of COVID-19 patients in ICUs in the United States had an underlying health condition, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic lung disease. Simply put, obese people and people with lung problems either caused by smoking or other factors are at greater risk of dying due to COVID-19 complications.

Along with Seattle and New York, New Orleans has come about as an early proliferation point for the coronavirus, which has reported more than 270 coronavirus deaths. What is frightening about the Louisiana city is the death rate: it is seven times the per-capita death rate of New York and ten times the per-capita rate of Seattle (based on reports). Doctors, public health officials, and data reports say New Orleans’ high levels of obesity and related ailments are likely related causes of the problem.

“We [New Orleans] already had tremendous healthcare disparities before this pandemic – one can only imagine they are being amplified now,” said Rebekah Gee, who up through December 2019 was the Health Secretary for Louisiana and now leads Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division.

Residents of New Orleans suffer from obesity, diabetes, and hypertension at rates higher than the national average, which are conditions that public health officials note can make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19. 97% of people killed by COVID-19 in Louisiana had a preexisting condition. Diabetes was observed in 40% of the coronavirus deaths, obesity in 25%, chronic kidney disease in 23%, and cardiac problems in 21% of the deaths, according to the state health department.

The New Orleans metropolitan statistical area ranks very high in the United States for the percentage of residents with high blood pressure (39%), obesity (36%), and diabetes (15%), CDC data shows. Throughout the nation, the median is 32% with high blood pressure, 31% obese, and 11% with diabetes.

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