The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2019

The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2019

Adult obesity rates in the United States reached record levels in 2018, with rates above 35 percent in nine states, up from seven states in 2017, an annual report from the Trust for America's Health finds. Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America 2019 (92 pages, PDF), found that Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia had obesity rates above 35 percent while twenty-two other states had rates between 30 percent and 35 percent; as recently as 2012, no state had a rate above 35 percent and only thirteen had rates above 30 percent. Between 2017 and 2018, only Alaska saw a statistically significant reduction in adult obesity rates, while seven states saw statistically significant increases. According to the report, Latinx and African Americans — who are more likely to live in neighborhoods with limited access to healthy foods and physical activity and are more likely to have unhealthy foods marketed to them — have higher obesity rates, with 47 percent of Latinx adults and and 25.8 percent of Latinx children considered obese, and 46.8 percent of African-American adults and and 22 percent of African-American children considered obese. Policy recommendations for reducing obesity rates and addressing health-related disparities include expanding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children and ensuring that all anti-hunger and nutrition-assistance programs follow healthy food guidelines; funding Safe Routes to Schools, Complete Streets, Vision Zero, and other pedestrian safety initiatives; adding a tax on sugary drinks and using the revenue to address disparities in obesity rates; and closing federal tax loopholes that facilitate the marketing of unhealthy foods to children.

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May 19, 2019