Obesity In America - How Does Your State Measure Up
August 14, 2012

Survey Finds Highest Percentage Of Obesity In The South, Lowest In The West

Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

Fast food and inactivity are just a few of the factors that have contributed to the obesity epidemic in the U.S.

A new study looked at the obesity trend in different states. Based on a new government survey by Trust for America´s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 12 states have very high obesity rates.

In particular the Body Mass Index (BMI), compiled with a person´s height and weight, helps measure obesity. Individuals are considered obese if they weigh thirty pounds or more than the recommended BMI healthy weight. The results of the survey were recently released before the “F as in Fat” report that is published by the two organizations.

According to the study, the state rates remained mostly the same, but very high rates jumped up from nine states to 12. Mississippi was ranked with the highest at 34.9 percent, while Colorado was rated lowest with 20.7 percent. USA Today reports that, in terms of regions, the South had the highest number of heavy people (29.5 percent), then the Midwest (29 percent), followed by the Northeast (25.3 percent), and lastly the West (24.3 percent).

"Overall the obesity rate remains high, and it shows that more concerted efforts need to be invested in by states to make healthy choices available," Heidi Blanck, acting director of Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, told USA Today.

As well, the rates of obesity vary by state but over a third of adults are obese in the U.S. The states with high percentage rates of obesity after Mississippi included Louisiana (33.4 percent), West Virginia (32.4 percent), Alabama (23 percent), and Michigan (31.3 percent). The states with low percentage rates following Colorado included Hawaii (21. 8 percent), Massachusetts (22.7 percent), the District of Columbia and New Jersey (both 23.7 percent), as well as California (23.8 percent).

"We still have a regional concentration of obesity, especially in the South. Eight of the ten heaviest states are in the South," explained Jeffrey Levi, executive director of nonprofit TFAH, in the USA Today article.

For the study, the new figures were pooled from a 2011 telephone survey, Behavioral Risk Surveillance System, conducted by the CDC. In the survey, adults were asked to provide information related to height and weight. Households with only cell phones were included in the study for the first time. Since the numbers were self-reported, participants tend to underreport their weight; there is a possibility that the percentage of people who are obese is higher than listed.

According to the CDC, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers are related to obesity. As well, in 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were approximately $147 billion. In particular, those who are obese have to pay an extra $1,429 for medical fees.

"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," commented Levi, whose organization studied the state-by-state data with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in an article by Reuters.