Obesity rates are increasing in six states and decreasing in exactly zero, according to the new annual report released from Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The six states whose rates increased in the last year include Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming.
Mississippi and West Virginia were tied for the most obese state, with obesity rates at 35.1%. Of the ten most obese states, nine of them are in the South–a new map released by the Centers for Disease Control using the same data shows the geographic distribution of obesity.
The least obese state is Colorado, with a rate of 21.3%.
But even that number is high compared to 30 years ago, when no state had an obesity rate above 15%, said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, in a press conference.“The rise was dramatic and quick,” he said. In 20 states now, obesity rates are at or above 30%, the report found.
The reason for the rise has to do with the one-two punch of our worsening eating habits and lack of exercise, thanks to an increase in fast-food outlets, low accessibility of affordable healthy foods in many neighborhoods, and the numbers of hours we spend sedentary. “Until we start moving more and think more about the quality of the food we’re eating, we’re not going to fully reverse this epidemic,” Levi said.
Ethnic and economic disparities are significant as well—rates of obesity are highest among blacks, Latinos, and lower-income Americans. While about 20% of African-American girls and Latino girls are obese, that rate is 15.6% among white girls, said Ginny Ehrlich, director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s childhood obesity team.
Alarming as these increases are, obesity rates do show some signs of stabilizing, and the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off, the report says. In 2005, obesity rates rose in every state but one, while this past year saw a rise in just six states. (Still, that’s a step backward from last year, in which only Arkansas logged an increase.)
“If we don’t reverse these trends, the nation will stay on course toward disastrous health and cost outcomes,” Ehrlich said.
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