Despite new initiatives aimed at various sectors of society, including schools and restaurants, obesity rates did not drop in one single US state last year, and rose in 16 of them. Twelve states have 30%+ obesity rates today, compared to just one in 2007, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2011". The report was created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health.
Nine of the ten states in the South have the highest obesity rates in America, while those in the West and Northeast have the lowest. For seven years running, Mississippi is in first place. The only state with an obesity rate of less than 20% is Colorado.
This latest report, which spans two decades, shows that twenty years ago the number of US states with an obesity rate above 15% was Zero.
Since 1995, obesity rates have risen by 90%+ in 10 states and have doubled in another 7. Tennessee, Alabama, and Oklahoma have experienced the fasted increases, while Connecticut, Colorado and Washington DC have seen the lowest.
Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of Trust for America's Health (TFAH), said:
"Today, the state with the lowest obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995. There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years, and we can't afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending."
Obesity is classed as a medical condition. Body fat has built up to such an extent that it may have a negative effect on the individual's health - an obese person has a higher risk of developing health problems and dying younger than non-obese people. A person with a BMI (Body Mass Index) of between 25 and 30 is usually overweight, while obese people's BMI is over 30. Some athletes may have very high BMIs and are not overweight/obese.
Obesity is mostly caused by a combination of eating too much (consuming more energy than the body needs), not doing enough exercise and not sleeping between 6.5 to 8 hours each night regularly. Some psychiatric illnesses, medications, medical conditions, and genetic dispositions may increase the likelihood of obesity.
Obesity raises the risk of developing several diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, sleep apnea, some cancers, and osteoarthritis.
The report reveals that diabetes and hypertension rates in the USA have risen considerably over the last twenty years - in 8 states diabetes incidence has doubled since 1995. In 1995, just four states had diabetes rates of 6%+, compared to 43 states which today have rates of 7%+. In 32 states the diabetes rate is over 8%.
In 1991, thirty-seven states had hypertension rates of 20%+. Today 9 of them have rates of over 30%, while every single state has a hypertension rate of at least 20%.
Incidence and prevalence of obesity is higher among Americans in certain racial and ethnic minorities, individuals with less education, and people on lower incomes.
Below are some highlighted facts from the report:
- African-Americans - in 15 states over 40% are obese, and 35% in 35 states. In 42 states plus D.C. at least 30% are obese.
- Latinos (Hispanics from Latin America) - in Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and North Dakota at least 35% are obese, while in 23 states at least 30% are obese.
- Caucasians (Whites) - in four states at least 30% are obese. 21.5% of Caucasian college or technical college graduates are obese nationally.
- Lower education - just under 33% of people who have no senior high school certificate are obese nationally.
- Low income - over 33% of US adults earning less than $15,000 annually are obese.
- Higher income - 24.6% of those earning $50,000+ per year are obese.
"The information in this report should spur us all - individuals and policymakers alike - to redouble our efforts to reverse this debilitating and costly epidemic. Changing policies is an important way to provide children and families with vital resources and opportunities to make healthier choices easier in their day-to-day lives."
The authors have put forward the following recommendations for policymakers and the food and drinks industry:
- Prevention and Public Health Fund - funding should not be cut. More focus should go on preventing obesity, and it should not be used to justify or offset cuts because of other federally-funded programs.
- Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act - the USDA (US Dept. of Agriculture) should issue a final rule on school meal regulations immediately. It should become much stricter on "competitive" food and drinks (sold in school stores, vending machines, a la carte lines, and other non-school meal programs).
- The National Physical Activity Plan - all policies, programs and initiatives outlined in the Plan should be implemented fully, including a public education program, a US-wide resource center, a grassroots advocacy effort, and dissemination of best practices.
- Cuts to Vital Programs - $833 million in cuts made in 2011 should be reversed. Programs should focus on better nutrition in child care settings.
"Creating healthy environments is key to reversing the obesity epidemic, particularly for children. When children have safe places to walk, bike and play in their communities, they're more likely to be active and less likely to be obese. It's the same with healthy food: when communities have access to healthy affordable foods, families eat better."
The authors recommend that the food and drinks industry should adopt "..strong, consistent standards for food marketing similar to those proposed in April 2011 by the Interagency Working Group, composed of representatives from four federal agencies - the Federal Trade Commission, CDC, Food and Drug Administration and the USDA - and work to implement the other recommendations set forth in the 2005 Institute of Medicine report on food marketing to children and youth."
David Satcher, MD, PhD, the 16th Surgeon General in the USA, wrote in the report:
In 2001, as surgeon general, i issued a call to action about the obesity epidemic In America. Ten years later, the epidemic is still a serious problem. While we have made some important progress to solve this health crisis, we need to do much more.
In 2001, 61 percent of U.S. adults were overweight or obese, and nearly 12 percent of children and adolescents were overweight. Today the rates are even higher: more than two-thirds of adults - 190 million people - are overweight or obese; nearly one third of children and teens fall into these categories. Childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980. In some places and among some groups, the problem is much worse. In Mississippi, nearly 70 percent of adults and 44 percent of children are overweight or obese. Overall, almost half of African-American women are obese.
Obesity is also enormously expensive. Every year, it costs U.S. employers $73 billion in lost productivity. Even worse, America spends more than $150 billion annually on health care linked to obesity. We all know that our country's health care costs are much too high, and are continuing to rise.
Average obesity rates per state, 2008 to end of 2010 average percentage. In brackets, percentage change over that three-year period:
- Mississippi 34.4% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 1
- Alabama 32.3% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 2
- West Virginia 32.2% (% rise 1.1) Ranking 3
- Tennessee 31.9% (% rise 1.2) Ranking 4
- Louisiana 31.6% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 5
- Louisiana 31.6% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 5
- Kentucky 31.5% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 6
- Oklahoma 31.4% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 7
- South Carolina 30.9% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 8
- Arkansas 30.6% (% rise 1.2) Ranking 9
- Michigan 30.5% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 10
- Missouri 30.3% (% rise 1.2) Ranking 11
- Texas 30.1% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 12
- Ohio 29.6% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 13
- North Carolina 29.4% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 14
- Indiana 29.1% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 15
- Kansas 29.0% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 16
- Georgia 28.7% (% rise 1.1) Ranking 17
- South Dakota 28.7% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 17
- Pennsylvania 28.5% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 19
- Iowa 28.1% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 20
- Delaware 28.0% (% rise 1.2) Ranking 21
- North Dakota 28.0% (% rise 1.1) Ranking 21
- Illinois 27.7% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 23
- Nebraska 27.6% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 24
- Wisconsin 27.4% (% rise 1.1) Ranking 25
- Maryland 27.1% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 26
- Maine 26.5% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 27
- Washington 26.4% (% rise 0.5) Ranking 28
- Florida 26.1% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 29
- Alaska 25.9% (% rise 1.6) Ranking 30
- Virginia 25.9% (% rise 1.2) Ranking 30
- Idaho 25.7% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 32
- New Hampshire 25.6% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 33
- New Mexico 25.6% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 33
- Arizona 25.4% (% rise 1.4) Ranking 35
- Oregon 25.4% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 35
- Wyoming 25.4% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 35
- Minnesota 25.3% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 38
- Nevada 25.0% (% rise 1.4) Ranking 39
- California 24.8% (% rise 0.6) Ranking 40
- New York 24.7% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 41
- Rhode Island 24.3% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 42
- New Jersey 24.1% (% rise 0.7) Ranking 43
- Montana 23.8% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 44
- Vermont 23.5% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 45
- Utah 23.4% (% rise 0.8) Ranking 46
- Hawaii 23.1% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 47
- Massachusetts 22.3% (% rise 0.6) Ranking 48
- Connecticut 21.8% (% rise 0.9) Ranking 49
- D.C. 21.7% (% rise 1.0) Ranking 50
- Colorado 19.8% (% rise 0.7) Ranking 51
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health
Jeffrey Levi, PhD., Laura M. Segal, MA., Rebecca St. Laurent, JD., David Kohn, MA.
Written by Christian Nordqvist