Obesity rates decline in four states and rise in two
The 13th annual report was created by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a non-profit health-policy and research organization, in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson foundation, a philanthropy organization focused on addressing America’s health issues.
“A decade ago, we began to see the trend of obesity really increasing,” said Albert Lang, senior communications manager at TFAH. “From 2002 to 2005, obesity rates skyrocketed.”
Lang said the two organizations started developing the yearly report to highlight the obesity issue and potential solutions. Data for the report came from surveys conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In partnership with state and local health departments, the CDC calls and surveys about 400,000 people across the country every year. Survey respondents are asked their height and weight, among other questions, to assess their health and risk factors.
In the medical community, a person is considered obese if they have a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. The estimated annual cost of obesity in the United States was $147 billion in 2008, according to data on the CDC website, and people who are obese can expect to pay $1,429 more for health care each year than people in the normal BMI range.
Corby Martin, an associate professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., is studying behaviors associated with eating. Louisiana has the highest obesity rate in the nation, with 36.2 percent of adults at a BMI of 30.0 or above.
“It’s a problem, because being overweight or being obese is associated with the main diseases that kill Americans,” Martin said. “If you take a look at diseases that account for most of our deaths, they’re things like heart disease, stroke and diabetes. We know that obesity is associated with the development of those conditions.”
Martin is studying the efficacy of mobile health interventions to help people lose weight, particularly interventions delivered via smartphone apps.
“The obvious advantage is that we can deliver treatment to people while they live at home,” Martin said.
Martin was not surprised to learn that Louisiana had the highest obesity rate in the country. Louisiana last topped the list in 2012 and has been among the top ten since 2008.
“Unfortunately, Louisiana is a state that is rich in very good but fairly fattening food, and we also tend to be fairly sedentary, so our rates of obesity have been historically quite high,” Martin said.
The states with the highest obesity rates have remained fairly stable over time, with Mississippi, West Virginia and Alabama consistently among the top five.
Lang said the TFAH isn’t certain how four states managed to reduce their obesity rates.
“We don’t know for sure, and we’re not sure they’re going to be sustained decreases,” he said. “For the last couple of years, we've seen rates look like they were possibly stabilizing and this year is the first time we've seen a decrease. Shining a light on this, and investments across the country, seem to be taking effect.”
Martin said he hopes the report will inspire Americans to eat less and move more.
“These studies are very important to help us understand if the prevalence rate of overweight or obesity is changing and, if it is, in what states it's changing the most,” he said.
“It's important for us to learn what factors within those states are affecting factors in obesity prevalence.”