Adult obesity rate up in four states, level in rest

by Eric Schroeder
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2016 obesity chart
 

WASHINGTON — The rate of obesity among U.S. adults, although still high, appears to be leveling off, according to “State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” a report issued Aug. 31 by the Trust for America’s Health (T.F.A.H.) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (R.W.J.F.).

The annual report found adult obesity rates increased in Colorado, Minnesota, Washington and West Virginia, and remained stable in the rest.

Rates of obesity exceeded 35% in five states, were at or above 30% in 25 states, and at or above 25% in 46 states.

2016 obesity chart
 

By comparison, during 2012, the rate of adult obesity exceeded 30% in 13 states, while 41 states had rates of at least 25%. Every state was above 20% during 2012.

As recently as 1991, no state had an obesity rate of more than 20%, and in 2000 no state was above 25%.

West Virginia, at 37.7%, surpassed Mississippi (37.3%), Alabama (35.7%), Arkansas (35.7%) and Louisiana (35.5%) to claim the top spot among worst rated states for adult obesity. Other states exceeding the 30% rate were Tennessee (34.8%), Kentucky (34.2%), Texas (33.7%), Oklahoma (32.8%), Michigan (32.5%), Indiana (32.5%), South Carolina (32.3%), Nebraska (32%), Iowa (32%), North Dakota (31.9%), North Carolina (31.8%), Missouri (31.7%), Illinois (31.6%), Ohio (31.5%), Georgia (31.4%), Alaska (31.4%), Kansas (31.2%), Wisconsin (30.7%, Delaware (30.7%), and Pennsylvania (30.3%).

1990s obesity chart
 

Colorado once again was the best, coming in at 22.3%. Hawaii, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia were the only three other areas below 25%, at 23.8%, 23.6% and 22.6%, respectively.

Dr. Richard Besser
Richard Besser, M.D., president and c.e.o. of R.W.J.F.

“Obesity rates are still far too high, but the progress we’ve seen in recent years is real, and it's encouraging,” said Richard E. Besser, M.D., president and chief executive officer of R.W.J.F. “That progress could be easily undermined if leaders and policymakers at all levels don’t continue to prioritize efforts that help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

Other key findings from the report include:

• Nine of the 11 states with the highest rates of diabetes were in the South, and 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity were in the South and Midwest.

• Mississippi high schoolers have the highest obesity rate in the United States at 18.9%; Montana had the lowest at 10.3%.

• One in four young adults who try to join the military are ineligible due to fitness and weight concerns.

John Auerbach
John Auerbach, president and c.e.o. of T.F.A.H.

“It’s clear that the progress we’ve made in fighting obesity is fragile — and that we’re at a critical juncture where continuation of the policies that show promise and increased support and resources could truly help bend the rising tide of obesity rates,” said John Auerbach, president and c.e.o. of T.F.A.H. “We’re far from out of the woods when it comes to obesity. But we have many reasons to be optimistic thanks to parents, educators, business owners, health officials and other local leaders. Our nation’s policymakers must follow their example to build a culture of health.”

The full report is available here
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