South and Midwest hit hardest by obesity

A new report put out by Trust for America’s Health says that 23 out of 25 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and Midwest.

The state with the highest rates of adult obesity is Arkansas, reporting a whopping 35.9 percent. On the other end of the spectrum, the state with the lowest rates was Colorado with just over 21 percent.

One encouraging finding, however, is that these rates are generally remaining stable.

“What we’re seeing is the beginnings of a leveling off of the increases,” says Rich Hamburg, Deputy Director at Trust for America’s Health. “Having put this report out for a dozen years and having tracked obesity rates for a couple of decades, it’s heartening to see that this year.”

Hamburg adds that only five states experienced a statistically significant increase in obesity rates. But the news, while indeed heartening, isn’t the end of the story.

“We’re beginning to see a leveling off of the curve, so to speak,” says Hamburg. “Unfortunately, that leveling off of the curve is at a wholly unacceptable rate.”

According to the report, we’re seeing obesity rates now that are over 30 percent in 22 states. Twenty years ago, there wasn’t a single state with an obesity rate of more than 20 percent.

The report also highlights a handful of groups being hit the hardest by the epidemic. Rates, in general, are highest among baby boomers (40 to 59 year olds). Lower-income communities face higher hurdles, as well.

“We know that one-third of adults who don’t graduate from high school are obese, compared to 21.5 percent of college graduates,” says Hamburg.

He adds that obesity rates are 38 percent higher among African Americans than whites, and 26 percent higher among Latinos than whites.

“In 25 states this time, we had data about the Native American population, whose obesity rate is well over 50 percent,” Hamburg adds.

Right now, he says that the focus is really on kids because prevention is key.

“It’s easier and more effective to prevent obesity than it is to reverse trends.”

This includes promoting healthy eating and physical activity for all children, which involves participation at both the local and federal levels.

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