Obesity Rates Climb in Most States

Posted August 27, 2007

— Loosen the belt buckle another notch: Obesity rates continued to climb in 31 states last year, and no state showed a decline.

Mississippi became the first state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adults considered to be obese. West Virginia and Alabama were just behind, according to the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.

Colorado continued its reign as the leanest state in the nation with an obesity rate projected at 17.6 percent.

This year's report, for the first time, looked at rates of overweight children ages 10 to 17. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage - 22.8 percent. Utah had the lowest - 8.5 percent.

North Carolina adolescents ranked No. 5 nationwide in terms of obesity, according to the fourth-annual "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America" report. More than 19 percent of 10- to 17-year-olds statewide were classified as overweight, the report said.

The report is based on data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from January 2003 to July 2004.

"This is a grave concern for us," North Carolina State Health Director Dr. Leah Devlin said in a statement. "The CDC reports that this generation of kids is not expected to live as long as their parents because of the health issues associated with carrying so many extra pounds."

Health officials say the latest state rankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on its hands.

Unfortunately, we're treating it like a mere inconvenience instead of the emergency that it is," said Dr. James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropy devoted to improving health care.

Officials at the Trust for America's Health want the government to play a larger role in preventing obesity. People who are overweight are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart problems and other chronic diseases that contribute to greater health care costs.

"It's one of those issues where everyone believes this is an epidemic, but it's not getting the level of political and policymaker attention that it ought to," said Jeffrey Levi, the organization's executive director. "As every candidate for president talks about health care reform and controlling health care cost costs, if we don't home in on this issue, none of their proposals are going to be affordable."

At the same time, many believe weight is a personal choice and responsibility. Levi doesn't dispute that notion, but he said society can help people make good choices.

"If we want kids to eat healthier food, we have to invest the money for school nutrition programs so that school lunches are healthier," he said. "If we want people to be more physically active, then there have to be safe places to be active. That's not just a class issue. We've designed suburban communities where there are no sidewalks for anybody to go out and take a walk."

To measure obesity rates, Trust for America's Health compares data from 2003-2005 with 2004-2006. It combines information from three years to improve the accuracy of projections. The data come from a survey of height and weight taken over the telephone. Because the information comes from a personal estimate, some believe it is conservative.

Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last year noting a national obesity rate of about 32 percent - a higher rate than was cited for any of the states in the Trust for America's Health report. The CDC's estimate came from weighing people rather than relying on telephone interviews, officials explained.

Generally, anyone with a body mass index greater than 30 is considered obese. The index is a ratio that takes into account height and weight. The overweight range is 25 to 29.9. Normal is 18.5 to 24.9. People with a large amount of lean muscle mass, such as athletes, can show a large body mass index without having an unhealthy level of fat.

A lack of exercise is a huge factor in obesity rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found last year that more than 22 percent of Americans did not engage in any physical activity in the past month. The percentage is greater than 30 percent in four states: Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Minnesotans led the way when it came to exercise. An estimated 15.4 percent of the state's residents did not engage an any physical exercise - the best rate in the nation. Still, the state ranked 28th overall when it came to the percentage of obese adults.

Another factor in obesity rates is poverty. The five poorest states were all in the top 10 when it came to obesity rates. An exception to that rule was the District of Columbia and New Mexico. Both had high poverty rates, but also one of the lower obesity rates among adults.

Poverty can lead to less safe neighborhoods, which deter children from playing. It can lead to fewer grocery stores offering fruits and vegetables, and it can lead to greater reliance on fast food, officials said.

"It seems the cheapest foods are the worst ones for you," Marks said.

Officials said the report is not designed to stigmatize states with high obesity rates but to stir them into action.

"These are the states where the urgency is the greatest. They need not to wait for others to lead. They need to become the leaders," Marks said. "It's the only way that they can restore the health of their children and their families. It's the only way that they can improve their economic competitiveness."



Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • h2opapillon Aug 29, 2007

    good god, no. children who are incapable of making their own nutritional choices depend on their parents. parents who do not provide proper nutrition and excercise activities- well, in ExTreme cases- it is tantamount to, if not flat out, child abuse. as an adult- it's totally different. while we still fight for it, we are capable to do most whatever we choose with our own bodies- and it's no one's business but our own.

  • doodad Aug 29, 2007

    h2opapillon, it appears that you are okay with someone being overweight because personality is more important, and I will agree that beauty is only skin deep, but are you also accepting of the increased percentages that children are also overweight? Obesity in America is out of control.

  • h2opapillon Aug 29, 2007

    i can relate to the comments of "read me." however, nothing worthwhile comes easily or quickly. if a beautiful woman has a huge ego, well, it's not so much a result of the surrounding demographics as it is her personal convictions. while aesthetics are certainly important (save for the men who are concerned about their buddies hitting on their woman while they're out hunting) real beauty comes from the inside. patience.

  • WardofTheState Aug 29, 2007

    Readme, what we are reading into your comments is that you are focusing primarily on looks, when attributes such as friendliness, thoughtfulness, sense of humor, etc. are equal draws. Or are you saying that you don't like overweight people because to you it reflects a disrespect for themselves? "If you cared more, you'd be buff."??

  • readme Aug 29, 2007

    I previously posted frustrations with dating in Raleigh because so many people are overweight. Your reactions to my comments show why obesity is such a problem today: 1. "hot people have low self-esteem and don't eat" - this is blatantly unfair to people who find time to workout, and it's a lame excuse for staying fat. 2. "I'll take big ladies anyday" - whatever, that's personal choice. 3. We are more socially accepting of fat people, and get very upset when people imply they need to change anything. 4. "Hot only lasts so long, then you get old" - so just get fat now since we're all worm food eventually? 5. We assume overweight is NOT an indications of other problems, when it usually is, even if not PC to say so. I'm not talking about the single mom with 3 kids, but the teenage lazy couch potato. 6. "Youre right hand must be your best friend." - well, you got me there.

  • doodad Aug 29, 2007

    Being overweight or obese results in greater dangers than "hooking up". Your health is your life, and your diet will indicate how long you live and your quality of life.

  • WardofTheState Aug 29, 2007

    Obscurite, thanks for your help, I look forward to it. You'll have to create a profile soon. May be a beer in it for you.

    Gandalf...WHAHAHA! Good one!

    Jokers...I like you too.

  • pinklady-1 Aug 29, 2007

    jokers wild...i'm starting to like you...LOL

  • Obscurite Aug 29, 2007

    "Obscurite, I'd sincerely like to know about these products. I'm on a quest to remove HFCS and partially hydrogenated oils from my diet."

    I'll get with her soon and post to your profile...

  • Jokers Wild II Aug 29, 2007

    readme, speak for yourself.. and you can have your "hot" girlfriend, I will stick with my big ladies anyday before I am interested in someone because she is "hot". Let me explain.. first of all, when they are "hot" they have some reason they lose all self-esteem and suck the life out of anyone they can to make themselves feel better! Secondly, who want's a skinny woman to cook for them??? They dont even know how to eat, much less cook!! And while you are out at work, or on a hunting trip, or where ever, all of your buddies and even a few guys you didnt know will be knocking down the door trying to get some of your wife/girlfriends loving! While I personally dont care wether you are "big" or "small" I have found that finding someone based on looks will last all of 1 night, if ya manage to keep her there that long even... So good luck on your adventures, and I suggest seeking another country where they are seeking "american men" to help them obtain green cards,lol