New Analysis Looks at Obesity Levels by State

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Many students who are heading back to school will be trying to absorb lessons in geography and health this year. Let’s do a little interdisciplinary instruction to see which states made the grade as far as obesity is considered and which didn’t. The calculations are from a new analysis by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is the national’s largest philanthropy devoted to health and health care.

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    Using data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the researchers found that Colorado was at the head of the class in 2011 with a 20.7 percent obesity rate. Who else is at the top of the class? The locations that recorded fewer than one in four citizens as being obese included the following: Hawaii (21.8 percent obesity rate), Massachusetts (22.7 percent), a tie between the District of Columbia and New Jersey (23.7 percent apiece), California (23.8 percent), Utah (24.4 percent), a three-way tie between Connecticut, Nevada and New York (24.5 percent each), Montana (24.6 percent) and Arizona (24.7 percent).

    Twenty-seven states fell in the middle group with between 25-30 percent of their population considered obese. These states were Wyoming (25 percent), a tie between Rhode Island and Vermont (25.4 percent apiece), Minnesota (25.7 percent), New Hampshire (26.2 percent), New Mexico (26.3 percent), Washington (26.5 percent), Florida (26.6 percent), Oregon (26.7 percent), Idaho (27 percent), Illinois (27.1 percent), Alaska (27.4 percent), Wisconsin (27.7 percent), a tie between Maine and North Dakota (27.8 percent apiece), Georgia (28 percent), South Dakota (28.1 percent), Maryland (28.3 percent), Nebraska (28.4 percent), Pennsylvania (28.6 percent), Delaware (28.8 percent), Iowa (29 percent), North Carolina (29.1 percent), a tie between Tennessee and Virginia (29.2 percent) and a tie between Kansas and Ohio (at 29.6 percent).

    The bottom group of states where a third or more of the citizens were obese include Missouri (30.3 percent), a tie between Kentucky and Texas (30.4 percent apiece), a tie between Indiana and South Carolina (30.8 percent apiece), Arkansas (30.9 percent), Oklahoma (31.1 percent), Michigan (31.3 percent), Alabama (32 percent), West Virginia (32.4 percent), Louisiana (33.4 percent) and Mississippi (34.9 percent).

    “Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced,” Dr. Jeffrey Levi, TFAH executive director, said on the organization’s website. “The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. The bad news is we’re not investing anywhere near what we need to in order to bend the obesity curve and see the returns in terms of health and savings.”

  • I’ll be reporting later this summer when the two organizations release the 2012 edition of F as in Fat, which analyzes state obesity rates and policy efforts to stem this epidemic. The 2012 report will include a forecast of obesity rates by state in 2030 as well as the projected risk in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs. This study also will examine what the potential impact would be of a 5-percent reduction in body mass index levels and the resulting reduction in the number of cases of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension, arthritis and obesity-related cancers. Additionally the study will offer a projected cost savings by state as a result of a five-percent BMI reduction by its population.

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    Until then, I’d encourage state policymakers, communities, businesses schools and, most importantly, individuals to use the information about the states’ 2011 obesity rates and begin to focus on the math – how to lower the number of calories consumed while increasing the amount of calorie burned so that obesity rates everywhere fall and Americans can enjoy a healthier life.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    Trust for America’s Health. (2012). Issue brief: Analysis of obesity rates by state.

    Trust for America’s Health. (2012). Mississippi has highest obesity rate in the nation.

Published On: August 17, 2012