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More Obesity, Diabetes in South, Appalachia

CDC Hopes New Data Will Help Target Funds for Obesity and Diabetes
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 19. 2009 -- The CDC says the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. is much higher in the South and Appalachian region than in most areas of the West and Northeast.

In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Nov. 20, the CDC estimates obesity and diabetes prevalence for all 3,141 counties in the U.S. and found distinct geographic patterns for both conditions.

Besides the South, high prevalence for obesity and diabetes was found in the Appalachian region and some tribal lands in the West and Northern Plains.

Eighty-one percent of counties in the Appalachian region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity. So do 77% of the counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

"Diabetes is costly in human and economic terms, and it's urgent that we take action to prevent and control this serious disease," Ann Albright, MD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, says in a news release. "The study shows strong regional patterns of diabetes and can help focus prevention efforts where they are most needed."

The agency says obesity costs the nation some $147 billion in medical costs and estimates the price tag for diabetes at $116 billion.

About 24 million people have diabetes, including 5.7 million who haven't been diagnosed.

The estimates come from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which uses self-reported data from state-based adult telephone surveys, and U.S. census data.

William H. Dietz, MD, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, says in the news release that the small-area estimates should help communities prevent and reduce obesity of their citizens.

The CDC data also show:

Obesity prevalence nationwide ranged from 12.4% to 43.7%.

Among counties in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, 73% were in the top quintile for prevalence of diabetes.

Highest obesity prevalence was found in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In those states, 70% of counties had obesity prevalence of 30.9% or greater.

Among counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, 77% were in the two top quintiles for both diabetes and obesity prevalence.

Among counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, the percentage was 81% for both conditions.

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