Adult obesity rates fell in four states between 2014 and 2015 and remained stable in the rest of the United States, a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation finds.
The annual study, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America (144 pages, PDF), found that adult obesity rates were down in Minnesota (from 27.6 percent in 2014 to 26.1 percent in 2015), Montana (26.4 percent to 23.6 percent), New York (27 percent to 25 percent), and Ohio (32.6 percent to 29.8 percent). Except for a 2010 decline in the District of Columbia, the declines are the first at the state level in a decade. Still, obesity rates remained high overall, putting millions of Americans at increased risk for developing a variety of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and costing the nation between $147 billion and $210 billion a year in additional healthcare costs and lower productivity. Ranging from 20.2 percent in Colorado to 36.2 percent in Louisiana, adult obesity rates in 2015 exceeded 20 percent in all states, were at or above 30 percent in twenty-five states, and above 35 percent in four states. The majority of states with the highest rates of obesity and diabetes were in the South.
The report also found that while childhood obesity rates have stabilized at around 17 percent, rates are increasing among youth between the ages of 12 and 19, while Latino (21.9 percent) and African-American (19.5 percent) children have higher overall obesity rates than white children (14.7 percent). According to the report, more than twenty-nine million children live in "food deserts," while more than fifteen million live in "food-insecure" households with limited access to healthy food.
To accelerate progress in addressing the obesity epidemic, the report calls on policy makers to provide more funding for obesity prevention programs, focus on health in early childhood policies and programs, support school-based efforts to improve health, prioritize health in community improvement efforts, and cover the full range of obesity prevention, treatment, and management services under all public and private health plans.
"Obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs," said TFAH interim president and CEO Richard Hamburg. "These new data suggest that we are making some progress, but there's more yet to do....Improving nutrition and increasing activity in early childhood, making healthy choices easier in people's daily lives, and targeting the startling inequities are all key approaches we need to ramp up."