WASHINGTON — Although still high, US adult obesity rates remained mostly steady this past year, according to “The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” a report issued Sept. 21 by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The annual report found adult obesity rates increased in Kansas, Minnesota, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah in 2014. Rates of obesity exceeded 35 percent in three states, were at or above 30 percent in 22 states, at or above 25 percent in 45 states and were not below 20 percent in any state.
By comparison, during 2012, the rate of adult obesity exceeded 30 percent in 13 states, while 41 states had rates of at least 25 percent. Every state was above 20 percent during 2012.
As recently as 1991, no state had an obesity rate of more than 20 percent, and in 2000 no state was above 25 percent. In 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent. Now, the national average of obese adults is above 30 percent.
Arkansas, at 35.9 percent, surpassed West Virginia (35.7 percent) and Mississippi (35.5 percent) to claim the top spot among worst rated states for adult obesity. Other states exceeding the 30 percent rate were Louisiana (34.9 percent), Alabama (33.5 percent), Oklahoma (33 percent), Indiana (32.7 percent), Ohio (32.6 percent), North Dakota (32.2 percent), South Carolina (32.1 percent), Texas (31.9 percent), Kentucky (31.6 percent), Kansas (31.3 percent), Tennessee (31.2 percent), Wisconsin (31.2 percent), Iowa (30.9 percent), Delaware (30.7 percent), Michigan (30.7 percent), Georgia (30.5 percent), Missouri (30.2 percent), Pennsylvania (30.2 percent) and Nebraska (30.2 percent).
Colorado once again was the best, coming in at 21.3 percent for a third straight year. The District of Columbia was the only other area below 22 percent, at 21.7 percent.
“Efforts to prevent and reduce obesity over the past decade have made a difference,” said Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director of the TFAH. “Stabilizing rates is an accomplishment. However, given the continued high rates, it isn’t time to celebrate. We’ve learned that if we invest in effective programs, we can see signs of progress. But, we still haven’t invested enough to really tip the scales yet.”
Other key findings from the report include:
• Obesity rates differ by region, age and race/ethnicity. Seven of the 10 states with the highest rates were in the South and 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity were in the South and Midwest.
• Nine of the 10 states with the highest rates of diabetes were in the South. Diabetes rates increased in eight states: Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
• American Indian/Alaska natives had the highest adult obesity rate, 54 percent, of any racial or ethnic group.
• Nationally, obesity rates were 38 percent higher among blacks than whites, and more than 26 percent higher among Latinos than whites.
• Obesity rates were 26 percent higher among middle-age adults than among younger adults. Rates rise from 30 percent of 20- to 39- year olds to nearly 40 percent of 40- to 59-year-olds.
• More than 6 percent of adults were considered severely obese, which marked more than a 125 percent increase in the past two decades. Around 5 percent of children already were severely obese by the ages of 6 to 11.
• Among children and teenagers (2 to 19 years old), 22.5 percent of Latinos, more than 20 percent of blacks and 14.1 percent of whites were obese.
“In order to build a national culture of health, we must help all children, no matter who they are or where they live, grow up at a healthy weight,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the RWJF “We know that when we take comprehensive steps to help families be more active and eat healthier foods, we can see progress. Now we must extend those efforts and that progress to every community in the country.”
Earlier this year, the RWJF pledged to commit $500 million over the next 10 years to expand efforts to help all children grow up at a healthy weight. Read more about the report.