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Hartford Finds Magazine's Report On Fast-Food Consumption In City Surprising

BILL LEUKHARDT

August 21, 2009

HARTFORD - A national magazine says its study of America's fast-food consumption concluded that Hartford residents are among the healthiest eaters in the nation's cities.

In its September issue, Men's Health magazine reports that its research of fast-food eating habits of 100 cities places Hartford in 99th position, bested only by Buffalo, the city deemed the "most fast-food phobic" of the municipalities studied. Pittsburgh, Miami and Rochester were just behind Hartford as homes to healthy eaters.

Arlington, Texas, was the No. 1 fast food-obsessed city in the study, followed by Anchorage, Alaska; Charlotte, N.C.; Sioux Falls, S.D., and Raleigh, N.C.

Carlos Rivera, Hartford's health director, said the story appears to be good news but it's a bit surprising, given results of department surveys of residents.

A city health survey published earlier this year on critical health indicators among citizens found that 31.9 percent of all respondents were obese, 33 percent said they did no physical exercise, and 23.9 percent said they smoked. In comparison, the city survey found, 20.9 percent of all Hartford County residents are considered obese, 19.3 percent report doing no leisure-time exercise or physical activity, and 15.3 percent of all county residents report that they smoke.

"The statistics we have on our report are from conversations we had with our residents. I'd be interested to see their methodology," Rivera said Thursday after reading a news account of the study. "Any positive picture is great but we still have a community that needs help in making healthy choices in our homes."

In the article, the magazine stated that its researchers counted the number of fast-food chain restaurants in each community to determine the per-capita ratio of these businesses, used statistics that logged the percentage of a city's residents who visit fast-food restaurants and the number of residents who eat fast food seven times a month or more, and used the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies of obesity and consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Katie Martin, research associate with the Center for Public Health and Policy at the University of Connecticut, said it may be true that Hartford has fewer fast-food businesses than some other American cities. But her own sampling of the health of Hartford residents shows that many adults and children are obese and that food shopping choices are limited.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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