28 US states saw obesity rates still rising last year, while the only place to experience a decline was the District of Columbia (D.C), F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2010, according to a report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). In 38 US states more than 25% of the adult population is obese. 19 years ago the number of US states with an obesity rate of over 20% was zero.
The USA has had the highest adult obesity rate in the world for several years.
The report underlines worrying racial, ethnic, regional and income disparities in the country’s obesity epidemic:
- Afro-Americans and Americans of Latin American origin (termed “Latinos” in the report) had higher obesity rates in 40 states and the District of Columbia.
- 10 out of the 11 states with the highest rates of obesity were in the South — with Mississippi weighing in with highest rates for all adults (33.8%) for the sixth year in a row
- 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.
Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America said:
Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges the country has ever faced, and troubling disparities exist based on race, ethnicity, region, and income. This report shows that the country has taken bold steps to address the obesity crisis in recent years, but the nation’s response has yet to fully match the magnitude of the problem. Millions of Americans still face barriers – like the high cost of healthy foods and lack of access to safe places to be physically active – that make healthy choices challenging.
According to a poll conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint:
- 80% of Americans recognize that childhood obesity is a significant and growing challenge for the country.
- 50% of Americans believe childhood obesity is such an important issue that we need to invest more to prevent it immediately.
- 84% of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight. However, research shows nearly 1/3 of children and teens are obese or overweight.
Obesity rates among children aged 10-17 years from the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) were also included in the 2009 F as in Fat report.
Trust for America’s Health states that there are currently over 12 million obese children/adolescents in the USA.
Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., Robert Wood Johnson Foundation president and CEO, said:
Obesity rates among the current generation of young people are unacceptably high and a very serious problem. To reverse this national epidemic, we have to make every community a healthy community. Americans are increasingly ready and willing to make that investment.
The report also states that:
- Adult obesity rates for Afro-Americans were above 40% in 9 states, 35% in 34 states, and 30% in 43 states and D.C.
- Rates of adult obesity for Latinos were over 35% in 2 states (North Dakota and Tennessee) and at 30% and above in 19 states.
- 10 of the 11 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South, as are the 10 states with the highest rates of hypertension.
- No state had rates of adult obesity above 35% for Caucasians (whites). Only one state-West Virginia-had an adult obesity rate for Caucasians greater than 30%.
- Last year the total number of states with obesity rates above 30% doubled, from 4 to 8. They include Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.
- The lowest obesity rates were recorded in the Northeastern and Western States. Colorado continued to have the lowest rate at 19.1%.
According to the report, federal and state authorities are undertaking a wide range of policy initiatives to address the obesity crisis. Some key findings include that:
At the federal level:
- The new health reform law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, has the potential to address the obesity epidemic through a number of prevention and wellness provisions, expand coverage to millions of uninsured Americans, and create a reliable funding stream through the creation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
- Community Transformation grants have the potential to help leverage the success of existing evidence-based disease prevention programs.
- President Barack Obama created a White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, which issued a new national obesity strategy that contained concrete measures and roles for every agency in the federal government.
- First Lady Michelle Obama launched the “Let’s Move” initiative to solve childhood obesity within a generation.
And at the state level:
- 20 states and D.C. set nutritional standards for school lunches, breakfasts and snacks that are stricter than current US Department of Agriculture requirements. 5 years ago, only four states had legislation requiring stricter standards.
- 28 states and D.C. have nutritional standards for competitive foods sold in schools on à la carte lines, in vending machines, in school stores, or through school bake sales. 5 years ago, only six states had nutritional standards for competitive foods.
- Every state has some form of physical education requirement for schools, but these requirements are often limited, not enforced or do not meet adequate quality standards.
- 20 states have passed requirements for body mass index screenings of children and adolescents or have passed legislation requiring other forms of weight and/or fitness related assessments in schools. 5 years ago, only four states had passed screening requirements.
To enhance the prevention of obesity and related diseases, TFAH and RWJF provide a list of recommended actions in the report. Some key policy recommendations include:
- Support obesity- and disease-prevention programs through the new health reform law’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides $15 billion in mandatory appropriations for public health and prevention programs over the next 10 years.
- Align federal policies and legislation with the goals of the forthcoming National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy. Opportunities to do this can be found through key pieces of federal legislation that are up for reauthorization in the next few years, including the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act; the Elementary and Secondary Education Act; and the Surface Transportation Authorization Act.
- Expand the commitment to community-based prevention programs initiated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 through new provisions in the health reform law, such as Community Transformation grants and the National Diabetes Prevention Program.
- Continue to invest in research and evaluation on nutrition, physical activity, obesity and obesity-related health outcomes and associated interventions.
Source: Trust for America’s Health
Written by Christian Nordqvist