One-third of Americans are obese and that is on top of the one-third who are overweight. In Calcasieu Parish, the numbers are even higher with 37 percent of the population classified as obese.
The American Medical Association now says obesity is a disease and needs to be treated with urgency.
That is exactly what is being done in Southwest Louisiana with the help of over $1 million in grants to transform the community's eating and exercise habits.
"We've recognized for a long time that as a community, we need to deal with this issue," said Lake Charles Mayor Randy Roach. "We formed the Partnership for a Healthier SWLA to address those concerns."
Through the partnership, area hospitals and the Blue Cross Blue Shield "Dare to be Healthy" initiative, 1,000 free health screenings will be given every year for the next three years.
The first of these wellness screenings is Saturday, June 22 inside the Exhibition Hall at the Lake Charles Civic Center. It will check blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose. Dare to be Healthy screening coordinator Louise McDaniel said, "You will get the results immediately. At that time, a nurse will go over your results with you and if you're in the high risk category, we will encourage you to visit another booth, which will have on-site counseling."
Kay Barnett with the Partnership for a Healthier SWLA said, "If we do not take care of ourselves and look at our health from the preventive direction, then we end up possibly having issues as we get older that are worse because we haven't dealt with those issues along the way."
The free community screening for the first 1,000 people at the Lake Charles Civic Center is from 7:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Saturday morning.
Anyone 18 and older can be screened, but you must fast for four hours before the screening. You can drink black coffee and take any prescribed medications.
Also happening Saturday morning: The next three cities in Calcasieu Parish will participate in the friendly "Walk with the Mayor" competition. Saturday morning's walks are in Lake Charles, Westlake and DeQuincy. Last week's kick-off was in Iowa with Mayor Carol Ponthieux.