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2016 State of Obesity report finds Americans making moderate progress


WASHINGTON - U.S. adult obesity rates decreased in four states (Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio), increased in two (Kansas and Kentucky) and remained stable in the rest, between 2014 and 2015, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This marks the first time in the past decade that any states have experienced decreases – aside from a decline in Washington, D.C. in 2010.

"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," stated Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO, TFAH. "These new data suggest that we are making some progress but there's more yet to do. Across the country, we need to fully adopt the high-impact strategies recommended by numerous experts. 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."

Despite these modest gains, obesity continued to put millions of Americans at increased risk for a range of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and costs the country between $147 billion and $210 billion each year.

In 2015, Louisiana has the highest adult obesity rate at 36.2% and Colorado has the lowest at 20.2%. While rates remained steady for most states, they are still high across the board.

The 13th annual report found that rates of obesity now exceed 35% in four states, are at or above 30% in 25 states and are above 20% in all states. In 1991, no state had a rate above 20%.

 The analyses are based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

The State of Obesity also found that:


  • 9 of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and 22 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest;

  • 10 of the 12 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South;

  • American Indian/Alaska Natives have an adult obesity rate of 42.3%;

  • Adult obesity rates are at or above 40% for Black people in 14 states; and

  • Adult obesity rates are at or above 30% in 40 states and Washington, D.C. for black people; 29 states for Hispanic people; and 16 states for White people.

There is some evidence that the rate of increase has been slowing over the past decade.  For instance, in 2005, 49 states experienced an increase; in 2008, 37 states did; in 2010, 28 states did; in 2011, 16 states did; in 2012, only one state did; and in 2014, only two states did.

In addition, recent national data show that childhood obesity rates have stabilized at 17% over the past decade. Rates are declining among 2- to 5-year-olds, stable among 6- to 11-year-olds and increasing among 12- to 19-year-olds. There are significant racial and ethnic inequities, with rates higher among Hispanic children (21.9%) and Black children (19.5%) than among White (14.7%) children.

Some other findings from the report include:


  • The number of high school students who drink one or more soda a day has dropped by nearly 40% since 2007, to around one in five (20.4%) (note: does not include sport/energy drinks, diet sodas or water with added sugars);

  • The number of high school students who report playing video or computer games three or more hours a day has increased more than 88% since 2003 (from 22.1% to 41.7%);

  • More than 29 million children live in "food deserts," and more than 15 million children live in "food-insecure" households with not enough to eat and limited access to healthy food;

  • Farm-to-School programs now serve more than 42% of schools and 23.6 million children; and

  • 18 states and Washington, D.C. require a minimum amount of time that elementary students must participate in physical education; 14 states and Washington, D.C. require a minimum amount for middle schoolers; and six states require a minimum amount for high schoolers.

"This year's State of Obesity report is an urgent call to action for government, industry, healthcare, schools, child care and families around the country to join in the effort to provide a brighter, healthier future for our children. It focuses on important lessons and signs of progress, but those efforts must be significantly scaled to see a bigger turn around," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF. "Together, we can build an inclusive Culture of Health and ensure that all children and families live healthy lives."


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