Report: 39 States on Pace for Obesity Rates Above 50%

TUESDAY Sept. 18, 2012 -- If current trends continue, more than half the adults in 39 states could be obese by 2030, not just overweight, a new report says.

And 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, while all 50 states would have rates above 44 percent, according to the report, released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

The toll on the United States in terms of both obesity-related diseases and health-care costs will be staggering, according to a new report.

"Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent," said TFAH executive director Jeff Levi at a Tuesday morning news conference. "Obesity is one of the most challenging health crises this country has ever faced."

Today, two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of children and teens are overweight and obese, putting them at an increased risk for serious diseases, and 12 states have adult obesity rates above 30 percent.

In 20 years, as is the case today, Mississippi would have the highest obesity rate, although it would soar from nearly 35 percent now to 67 percent in 2030, according to the report, titled "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012."

Colorado would remain the leanest state, but about 45 percent of its adults would be obese in 28 years, up from nearly 21 percent today.

Although states in the South and Midwest bear a disproportionate share of the burden, obesity "is truly a nationwide crisis," Levi said.

More obese adults means more people at high risk for serious health conditions.

The report projects another 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes by 2030, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of obesity-related cancer.

This is over and above an already sobering burden of 25 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, 27 million with chronic heart disease, 68 million with hypertension and 50 million with arthritis.

More sickness will translate into higher health care costs, the report said.

If obesity rates continue to climb, obesity-related health-care costs will jump by $48 billion to $66 billion annually. That doesn't include lost productivity, which could reach almost $600 billion per year, according to the report.

Obesity already costs the United States an estimated $147 billion to $210 billion annually.

But the report also offers a potentially rosier scenario: What would the future look like if states adopted approaches that could lower residents' body mass index (BMI, a measure of body fat) by just 5 percent?

Almost 800,000 people would be spared type 2 diabetes and 400,000 arthritis in California alone, the report said.

And health-care costs could decrease 6.5 percent to 7.9 percent.

According to Michelle Larkin, assistant vice president and deputy director of RWJF's Health Group, "pockets of progress" are already being seen. For instance, obesity rates in Philadelphia public school students have declined from 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent.

Larkin pointed to several policy initiatives that could help ease the obesity epidemic, including full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which has updated meal standards as well as investment in obesity-prevention programs.

TFAH's Levi said, "To realize this [healthier] future [we] need to invest in obesity prevention programs that match the severity of the problem. We can't afford not to."

More information

View the full report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012 at the Trust for America's Health.

Posted: September 2012


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