Mississippi Has Highest Obesity Rate In The Nation

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Twelve states currently have an adult obesity rate above 30 percent, according to a new analysis released today by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). The analysis used the state obesity rates made available today by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.7 percent. Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates are in the Midwest and South.

"Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced," said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, TFAH executive director. "The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. The bad news is we're 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."

Later this summer, RWJF and TFAH will release the 2012 edition of F as in Fat, the annual report that analyzes state obesity rates and policy efforts to address the epidemic, and provides policy recommendations. For the first time, the 2012 report will include a study that forecasts 2030 obesity rates in each state and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs. The analysis will also examine the potential impact of a 5 percent reduction in body mass index (BMI) levels and the number of Americans who could be spared from type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke, hypertension, arthritis and obesity-related cancers if they were able to achieve that reduction. Additionally, the projection will feature the cost savings that could be achieved in each state as a result of a 5 percent BMI reduction. For a six-foot-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction in BMI would be the equivalent of losing roughly 10 pounds.

In 2006, obesity-related medical costs totaled $147 billion a year, or nearly 10 percent of total medical spending, according to a 2011 study in Health Affairs. The bulk of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes.

"Our nation has made important inroads to creating healthier communities," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, RWJF president and CEO. "Some cities and states that have taken comprehensive action to address the epidemic are beginning to see declines in their obesity rates. But we need to expand and intensify our efforts. Investing in prevention today will mean a healthier tomorrow for our children."

In recognition of the dramatic health and financial consequences of obesity, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) earlier this year released a comprehensive report that outlined strategies for reversing the epidemic and called on everyone to advance those strategies. The IOM committee, made up of nutritionists, public health experts, and leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, called for a focused commitment to: making physical activity an integral and routine part of life, creating food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice, transforming messages about physical activity and nutrition, expanding the role of health care providers, insurers and employers in obesity prevention, and making schools a national focal point for obesity prevention.

For obesity rates, click here.