How Fat is Your State?

How Fat is Your State?

Written by Alex Reid
Posted August 14, 2012

As you are most likely aware, the obesity epidemic in the United States is one of the fastest-growing and most pressing issues facing our society. With an alarming 34% of all adult citizens considered obese, the U.S. tops the chart of the most obese nations.

The health risks of obesity are enormous as it is the leading cause of type-2 diabetes and heart disease, the number one cause of death among Americans. The increasing attention given to health care and the economy in recent years has caused the problem to receive more attention than ever. But could where you live be influencing your likelihood of becoming obese?

An analysis released yesterday by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) reveals the top 10 most obese states in the United States:

1. Mississippi-34.9%

2. Louisiana-33.4%

3. West Virginia-32.4%

4. Alabama-32%

5. Michigan -31.3%

6. Oklahoma -31.1%

7. Arkansas-30.9%

8. (tie) Indiana-30.8%

8. South Carolina-30.8%

10. (tie) Kentucky-30.4%

10. Texas-30.4%

The percentages were calculated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) using a modernized method which is reportedly even more accurate than that used in previous years. A person is considered obese if his or her body mass index (BMI) is 30 or higher.

Of these states, all but two (Michigan and Indiana) are located in the south, and seven also appeared on the US Census Bureau’s list of the top 10 poorest states in 2010 (excepting Michigan, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Texas).

One of the most shocking aspects of this data is that the percentage of obese adults in every single state in the top 10 is over 30%. These rising obesity rates not only present great health risks for individuals, but they also pose severe financial costs, with nearly 10% of all medical spending going toward obesity-related medical expenses. According to TFAH executive director Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Americans are “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.”

The Institute of Medicine has formed a committee of experts to focus on ways to reduce the consequences of obesity. Some of these measures include creating an emphasis on physical activity for all individuals especially children in school, and increasing the accessibility to healthier food choices for all Americans.

“Some cities and states that have taken comprehensive action to address the epidemic are beginning to see declines in their obesity rates," Risa Lavizzo-Mourey president and CEO of the the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

"But we need to expand and intensify our efforts. Investing in prevention today will mean a healthier tomorrow for our children.”

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