Benton and Franklin Counties fall in health rankings

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- It was just a year ago that the Tri-Cities were listed among the fattest cities in the country. We didn't make the top ten this year, but we're not getting any healthier. In fact, our obesity rate is climbing.

Rick Smith may be 57 years old, but he doesn't act like it. Rick bikes four times a week for up to five hours a day.

"I like to stay in shape, because I like to do active things and you got to be in shape to do that," he said.

But few Tri-Cities residents share Rick's passion. In the most recent Washington county health rankings, Benton County fell from 12th to 13th overall. Franklin County was flat, while Walla Walla jumped from 16th to 12th.

Rick was surprised to see Benton out of the top ten and falling.

"It's kind of shocking a little bit," he said. "I thought it was better than that."

Obesity rates also increased for the Tri-Cities. Both Benton and Franklin Counties saw obesity numbers rise to a third of all adults.

Walla Walla County saw a drop. The county health district says there is no rhyme or reason to seeing improvements; it's just creating more awareness.

The city of Richland says they are always taking into consideration ways to keep residents active.

"Fitness is a personal thing," said Rick. "The city can only do so much. You know, I'm just not too sure the city can make people exercise."

Richland staff recently walked the downtown area to check on its walkability factor. The city is also adding a cycling lane on the planned Duportail Bridge to give residents that option.

"We can only provide it," said Trish Herron of the City of Richland. "If people don't want to take advantage of it, it's up to them and it's a mindset."

A mindset that Rick hopes others will share.

"Work out, do a little more moving around and exercising," he said. "I think in the long run, it helps everybody."

City staff say there are lists of activities you can do to stay fit on the city websites.