Weighty Issue: 12 States Have Obesity Rates Above 30 Percent

Mississippi has highest obesity rate in the U.S., Colorado the lowest

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Aug 16, 2012

More than 30 percent of all adults are obese in 12 U.S. states, according to an analysis of obesity rates by the not-for-profit Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The analysis used state obesity data made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), showing that:

Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent.

Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.7 percent.

26 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, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, in a media statement.

Obesity-related medical costs were estimated to total $147 billion a year, or nearly 10 percent of total medical spending, according to a study on obesity and health care spending in the journal Health Affairs. The bulk of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.

In recognition of the dramatic health and financial consequences of obesity, in 2012 the U.S. Institute of Medicine released a report that outlined strategies for reversing the obesity epidemic. The report called for a focused commitment to:

Making physical activity an integral and routine part of life.

Ensuring that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice at the workplace and elsewhere.

Transforming messages about physical activity and nutrition.

Expanding the role of health care providers, insurers and employers in obesity prevention.

State-by-State Obesity Rates

According to newly released CDC data, part of the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, the adult obesity rates by state from highest to lowest were:

1. Mississippi (34.9%).

2. Louisiana (33.4%).

3. West Virginia (32.4%).

4. Alabama (32.0%).

5. Michigan (31.3%).

6. Oklahoma (31.1%).

7. Arkansas (30.9%).

8/9 (tie). Indiana and South Carolina (30.8%).

10/11 (tie). Kentucky and Texas (30.4%).

12. Missouri (30.3%).

13/14 (tie). Kansas and Ohio (29.6%).

15/16 (tie). Tennessee and Virginia (29.2%).

17. North Carolina (29.1%).

18. Iowa (29.0%).

19. Delaware (28.8%).

20. Pennsylvania (28.6%).

21. Nebraska (28.4%).

22. Maryland (28.3%).

23. South Dakota (28.1%).

24. Georgia (28.0%).

25/26 (tie). Maine and North Dakota (27.8%).

27. Wisconsin (27.7%).

28. Alaska (27.4%).

29. Illinois (27.1%).

30. Idaho (27.0%).

31. Oregon (26.7%).

32. Florida (26.6%).

33. Washington State (26.5%).

34. New Mexico (26.3%).

35. New Hampshire (26.2%).

36. Minnesota (25.7%).

37/38 (tie). Rhode Island and Vermont (25.4%).

39. Wyoming (25.0%).

40. Arizona (24.7%).

41. Montana (24.6%).

42/43/44 (tie). Connecticut, Nevada and New York (24.5%).

45. Utah (24.4%).

46. California (23.8%).

47/48 (tie). District of Columbia and New Jersey (23.7%).

49. Massachusetts (22.7%).

50. Hawaii (21.8%).

51. Colorado (20.7%).

Note: Individuals with a body mass index (a calculation based on weight and height ratios) of 30 or higher are considered obese.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.​

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