Rankings: Obesity Rates Grew In Every State But Oregon Mississippi Ranked Heaviest State
The obesity epidemic isn't winding down -- in fact, it's expanding, according to state rankings released Tuesday by Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit health advocacy group.
Obesity rates continued to rise last year in every state but Oregon. Mississippi ranked as the heaviest state, Colorado as the least heavy, according to the report, titled "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2005."
The rankings are based on averages of three years of data from 2002 to 2004 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hawaii was not included in the report.
About 64.5 percent of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. The report found that more than 25 percent of adults in 10 states are obese, including in Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and South Carolina.
Residents of Alabama had the largest increase in obesity in the three-year period. The group says that overall, the percentage of obese adults in the United States grew from 22 percent to 22.7 percent from 2002 to 2004. Alabama's increase was 1.5 percentage points to 27.7 percent.
"Obesity is a gateway to heart disease, diabetes and a host of other diseases," said Parris Glendening, former governor of Maryland and co-author of the report. "Decisions about where we build new houses and highways or schools and sidewalks can mean the difference between giving people more or less opportunity to participate in physical activity."
The group also criticized U.S. government policies about obesity, saying that federal programs are too limited to make much difference.
"We have reached a state of policy paralysis in regards to obesity," said Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "We need more and better data so we can make decisions to get out of the debate limbo in which we are stuck. We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the U.S., and it's time we dealt with it."
Hearne said poor nutrition and physical inactivity add up to a crisis. She wants the government to require healthier school lunches and make sure Medicaid recipients have access to fitness programs.
Policy analyst Radley Balko differs. Balko, from the Cato Institute -- which prefers free-market approaches to problems -- said obesity is a very personal issue and that the government's role is not to define what you eat and how often you exercise.
Health policy analysts say obesity affects taxpayers because it requires Medicare and Medicaid to cover treatment of diseases caused by obesity.
The report said some states are making headway when it comes to obesity policies. They include setting strict nutritional standards for school lunches and improving physical education programs.