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U.S. Response to Obesity Is Not Matching the Weight of the Problem, Study Says

Obesity for Kids on the Rise

A new report states that U.S. obesity is reaching epidemic proportions.

The latest numbers indicate that 38 states (more than three-fourths) have adult obesity rates higher than 25 percent – in other words, more than one-quarter of the state’s population is obese. This number is particularly worrisome because, less than 20 years ago, no states reported an obesity rate above 20 percent. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of more than 30.

Obesity rates increased in 28 states last year and declined in only Washington, D.C.  Nine of the 11 most obese states were located in the south. The country’s most obese state was Mississippi at 33.8 percent. According to the report, compiled annually by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the most obese states in the U.S. are as follows:

1. Mississippi (33.8%)
2. Alabama (31.6%)
3. Tennessee (31.6%)
4. West Virginia (31.3%)
5. Louisiana (31.2%)
6. Oklahoma (30.6%)
7. Kentucky (30.5%)
8. Arkansas (30.1%)
9. South Carolina (29.9%)
10. (tie) North Carolina (29.4%)
10. (tie) Michigan (29.4%)

The medical community generally agrees that obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges that the U.S. has ever encountered. Obesity puts a strain on the healthcare system by causing billions of otherwise avoidable expenditures every year.

Studies have indicated that obese people are more likely to suffer from various diseases, particularly heart disease, type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, osteoarthritis and breathing difficulties. The act of becoming obese usually stems from one or more of the following: excessive dietary calories, lack of physical activity, and genetic susceptibility.

The report found that Black and Latino adults had higher rates of obesity in 40 states and in Washington, D.C.  Also, more than 35 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 a year are obese while only about 25 percent of adults earning $50,000 or more a year are obese. The researchers said these stats can be explained, in part, by the fact that healthy foods cost more and that poorer Americans may not have access, including safe access, to as many places where they can be physically active.

State legislation has helped to make a positive difference in recent years. For instance, 20 states now have set higher nutritional standards for school meals than prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Five years ago, only four states had higher standards than the FDA. Also, President Obama has created the White House Task Force on Child Obesity while the first lady has founded the “Let’s Move” initiative to solve childhood obesity within a generation.

Still, the obesity trends are heading in the wrong direction. More than 12 million children and adolescents are now obese.

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