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This article was produced as a project for the USC Center for Health Journalism’s California Fellowship.
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People with insurance are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with a chronic condition than uninsured people. That means that as the number of insured grows, the health system will have to cope with an influx of patients newly diagnosed with conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

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Like adults, children are suffering from "middle-age spread" -- too many calories and not enough exercise. And like adults, they are taking pills to accommodate the conditions instead of making lifestyle changes.

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Journalist Kate Long explores West Virginia's epidemics of chronic disease and obesity and the efforts to prevent them in an ongoing series called "The Shape We're In."

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For people living with HIV or AIDS, nutrition is a key component of any treatment plan. With a weakened immune system, it is vital that they maintain optimum health by way of exercise and following the basics set forth in widely-accepted dietary guidelines. But living in neighborhoods where healthy food options are few and far between, with an outsize presence of fast-food outlets, can make it difficult to eat healthy.

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Three years ago, when West Virginia was leading the nation in diabetes, the American Diabetes Association shut down its West Virginia office.

Now, officials have decided to bring the organization back to West Virginia.
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A federally-funded health center, Cabin Creek Health Systems accepts patients whether they can pay or not. Freida Smith is one of their 14,000 patients.

Picture of Leiloni  De Gruy

For people living with HIV or AIDS, nutrition is a key component of any treatment plan. But living in neighborhoods where healthy food options are few and far between can make it difficult to eat healthy.

Picture of Kate Long

West Virginia is among the top five on just about every national chronic disease list. The state leads the nation in diabetes and obesity, according to the Gallup Healthways poll.

Surveys show that many West Virginians do not realize obesity is a leading cause of many chronic diseases. Many also feel those diseases are hereditary, and there is nothing a person can do to prevent them.

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