Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

October 2017

Adult Obesity Rates Leveling Off

By Chandler Garland

The 14th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood John Foundation (RWJF) shows adult obesity rates to be leveling off or even declining in some states.

West Virginia, the state with the highest rate of obesity, still ranked number 1 in 2000, but with a rate of only 23.9 percent as opposed to 37.7 percent, which it is sitting at now. These numbers have been steadily rising in all states since 2000, Before 2000, no state had an obesity rate above 25 percent. This year, however, adult obesity rates have been shown to exceed 35 percent in five states (West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Louisiana), to exceed 30 percent in 25 states, and 25 percent in 46 states.

However, in the past year, obesity rates have only increased in four states (Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and West Virginia), decreased in Kansas, and remained stable in all other states. This means that obesity rates are in fact stabilizing throughout the country, making rates in all states ripe for decline.

This tenuous success is in danger of collapse if policy-makers on the federal, state and local levels continue to cut programs that have led to increased health and awareness.

"Obesity rates are still far too high, but the progress we've seen in recent years is real and it's encouraging," said Richard E. Besser, M.D., president and CEO of RWJF. "That progress could be easily undermined if leaders and policy-makers at all levels don't continue to prioritize efforts that help all Americans lead healthier lives."

In the 2017 enacted budget, community-based programs such as the CDC's Division of Nutrition, the CDC's School Health Programs, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, USDA's SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and New Markets Tax Credits have either maintained their budget or received major cuts. SNAP, also known as Food Stamps, has seen a 3 percent decrease in its budget between 2016 and 2017.

In addition to the full funding of these community-based programs, the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood John Foundation also encourage policy-makers to continue full funding for the CDC and the Prevention and Public Health Fund. These organizations also highly advise the maintenance of childhood policies and programs as well as school-based policies and programs. A focus on providing appropriate guidance and availability of healthy options to children is the number one sited way by State of Obesity to decrease future obesity issues in America. These programs include both nutrition standards in schools and physical activity programs.

Furthermore, beyond food and nutrition, access to public parks, sidewalks, and safe bike lanes in communities is also cited as a crucial factor in decreasing obesity in America. Eating healthy is only half the battle, getting people to choose physically active pastimes and modes of transportation is key to the continued stabilization and decline in obesity.

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