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Nine States Now Have an Obesity Rate Above 35 Percent

THURSDAY, Sept. 12, 2019 -- The number of U.S. states with adult obesity rates above 35 percent reached an all-time high of nine in 2018, according to the Trust for America's Health, the nonprofit group behind the 16th annual "State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America" report.

In 2018, the nine states with adult obesity rates above 35 percent were: Alabama, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, and West Virginia. That is two more than the year before. As recently as 2012, no state topped 35 percent, according to the report. It also pointed to statistically significant increases in adult obesity rates in 33 states between 2013 and 2018. The report showed considerable variation from state to state. The five states with the highest rates were Mississippi and West Virginia (39.5 percent), Arkansas (37.1 percent), Louisiana (36.8 percent), and Kentucky (36.6 percent). The lowest obesity rates were in Colorado (23 percent), District of Columbia (24.7 percent), Hawaii (24.9 percent), and Massachusetts and New Jersey (25.7 percent).

Those at greatest risk for obesity include people with lower incomes and people of color. They are more likely to live in areas where healthy food is hard to find, opportunities for physical activity are scarce, and marketing of unhealthy foods is widespread, the report said. Among adults, the latest data show that as of 2015 to 2016, about 47 percent of Hispanic and black Americans were obese, compared with about 38 percent of whites and nearly 13 percent of Asians. Childhood obesity rates were highest among Hispanics (25.8 percent) and blacks (22 percent), compared with 14 percent of whites and 11 percent of Asians.

The report includes 31 recommendations for policy action by federal, state, and local governments to improve access to nutritious foods, provide safe opportunities for physical activity, and limit harmful food marketing and advertising tactics.

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Posted: September 2019

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