Obesity Rates Remain High
Adult obesity rates remained high overall, increased in six states in the past year, and did not decrease in any, according to "The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America," a report from the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
The annual report found that adult obesity rates increased in Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee and Wyoming. Rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent for the first time in two states, are at or above 30 percent in 20 states and are not below 21 percent in any. Mississippi and West Virginia tied for having the highest adult obesity rate in the United States at 35.1 percent, while Colorado had the lowest at 21.3 percent.
Findings reveal that significant geographic, income, racial and ethnic disparities persist, with obesity rates highest in the South and among Blacks and Latinos, as well as among lower-income, less-educated Americans. The report also found that more than one in 10 children become obese as early as ages 2 to 5.
"Obesity in America is at a critical juncture. Obesity rates are unacceptably high, and the disparities in rates are profoundly troubling," said Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. "We need to intensify prevention efforts starting in early childhood, and do a better job of implementing effective policies and programs in all communities—so every American has the greatest opportunity to have a healthy weight and a healthy life."
In positive news, after decades of steadily rising, the rate of increase among adults is beginning to slow. In 2005, the obesity rate increased in every state but one, while this past year, only six states experienced an increase. And, in last year's report, only one state, Arkansas, experienced an increase in its adult obesity rate.
In addition, the national childhood obesity rate seems to have leveled off, with rates declining in some places and among some groups. However, disparities persist, and severe obesity may be on the rise. As of 2011-2012, nearly one out of three children and teens ages 2 to 19 was overweight or obese. National obesity rates among this age group have remained stable for 10 years. However, the report also revealed that more than one in 10 children become obese between the ages of 2 to 5, and 5 percent of 6- to 11-year-olds are severely obese. On top of that, racial and ethnic disparities emerge in childhood. The obesity rates for children ages 2 to 19 are 22.4 percent for Latinos, 20.2 percent among Blacks, and 14.1 percent among Whites.
"While adult rates are stabilizing in many states, these data suggest that our overall progress in reversing America's obesity epidemic is uneven and fragile," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., RWJF president and CEO. "A growing number of cities and states have reported decreases in obesity among children, showing that when we make comprehensive changes to policies and community environments, we can build a Culture of Health that makes healthy choices the easy and obvious choices for kids and adults alike. Going forward, we must spread what works to prevent obesity to every state and region, with special focus on those communities where rates remain the highest."
The report reviews existing policies and issues high-priority recommendations for making affordable healthy foods and safe places for physical activity available to all Americans, such as improving nutrition and activity in schools and childcare settings, and improving the built environment to support increased physical activity.
For more information, visit http://stateofobesity.org.