28 States Report Obesity Increase

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media , June 30, 2010

Adult obesity rates increased in 28 states in the past year, while declining only in Washington, DC, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010," a new report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Overall, more than two thirds of states (38) had adult obesity rates above 25%.

The report looked at obesity by examining racial, ethnic, regional, and income disparities. Adult obesity rates for blacks and Latinos, for instance, were found to be higher than for whites in at least 40 states and Washington, DC.

Ten out of the 11 states with the highest rates of obesity were found in the South—with Mississippi weighing in with highest rates among all adults (33.8%) for the sixth year in a row. Also, 35.3% of adults earning less than $15,000 per year were obese compared with 24.5% of adults earning $50,000 or more per year.

The report shows that while the U.S. was taking steps to address the obesity crisis in recent years, "the nation's response has yet to fully match the magnitude of the problem," said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, TFAH's executive director. Millions of Americans still face barriers—such the high cost of healthy foods and lack of access to safe places to be physically active—that make healthy choices challenging, he added.

In examining obesity rates among youths ages 10 to 17, a poll commissioned by the study shows that 80% of Americans recognized that childhood obesity was a significant and growing challenge for the country; 50% of those surveyed said that they thought childhood obesity was an important issue and that more is needed to invest to prevent it.

The survey conducted for the report also found that 84% of parents believe that their children are at a healthy weight. However, research shows nearly a third of children and teens are obese or overweight. Currently, more than 12 million children and adolescents are considered obese, he said.

"Obesity rates among the current generation of young people are unacceptably high and a very serious problem," said Risa Lavizzo Mourey, MD, MBA, the RWJF president and CEO. "To reverse this national epidemic, we have to make every community a healthy community. Americans are increasingly ready and willing to make that investment."

Among additional findings from the report are:

  • Adult obesity rates for blacks topped 40% in nine states, 35% in 34 states, and 30% in 43 states and DC.
  • Ten of the 11 states with the highest rates of diabetes were in the South, as are the 10 states with the highest rates of hypertension.
  • No state had rates of adult obesity above 35% for whites; only one state--West Virginia--had an adult obesity rate for whites greater than 30%.
  • The number of states where adult obesity rates exceed 30% doubled in the past year, from four to eight Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
  • Northeastern and western states had the lowest adult obesity rates; Colorado remained the lowest at 19.1%.

Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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