Americans Fatter in 37 States

State-by-State Ratings Show Waistlines Still Widening

From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 19, 2008 -- Millions of Americans are watching our countrymen compete in the Olympics. But fewer and fewer of us bear any resemblance to those lean, fit figures.

The latest annual state-by-state obesity rankings don't paint a pretty picture:

  • Number of states in which adult obesity rates went up: 37
  • Number of states in which adult obesity rates went down: 0
  • Number of states in which adult obesity rates went up for the third year in a row: 19
  • Percentage of population that is obese in Colorado, this year's least obese state: 18.4
  • Percentage of population that was obese in the four most obese states in 1991: 15% to 20%
  • Number of states in which at least 1 in 4 adults is obese: 28
  • Number of states in which at least 1 in 5 adults was obese in 1991: 0

These are just a few of the shocking numbers in the fifth annual "F as in Fat" report from the nonprofit Trust for America's Health, with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Senior author of the report is Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America's Health and associate professor of health policy at George Washington University School of Public Health.

The report's state-by-state rankings find Mississippi, West Virginia, and Alabama to be the most obese states. Colorado, Hawaii, and Connecticut are the least obese states -- yet Colorado's obesity rate continues to climb toward 20% of adults, a level already surpassed by Hawaii and Connecticut.

"The crisis is getting worse," Levi said at a news conference. "The 2008 report shows some states and communities have taken positive steps, but overall we are not treating the obesity epidemic with the seriousness it deserves."

The most shocking figure in last year's report was that more than 30% of Mississippi adults were obese. This year, Mississippi's problem is even worse -- and now Alabama and West Virginia have adult obesity rates over 30%.

Obesity in the U.S. is less like a rising tide than like a hurricane surge, suggests James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president and director of the health group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Continued

"This is the fifth annual report, and with each and every year we see more evidence the obesity epidemic is gaining speed and destructive force," Marks said at the news conference.

Levi and Marks stress that a change in direction will take serious efforts from federal, state, and local governments; from corporations and small businesses; from communities; and from individuals. But they say none of this can come together without leadership from the top.

Without increased federal funding, Marks says, state and local programs will be hard pressed to continue effective programs.

"The resources devoted to improving the health of our families and our children remain too few and too ineffective," Marks said. "The federal government continues to cut its own effective programs. At the federal level, the only obesity number going down is the number of dollars being spent to end the epidemic."

State-by-State Adult Obesity Rankings

Here's a list of states and their three-year average of adult obesity from 2005 to 2007:

Alabama: Rank, 3 -- 30.1% of adults obese

Alaska: Rank, 14 -- 27.3% of adults obese

Arizona: Rank, 38 -- 23.3% of adults obese

Arkansas: Rank, 8 -- 28.1% of adults obese

California: Rank, 41 -- 23.1% of adults obese

Colorado: Rank, 51 -- 18.4% of adults obese

Connecticut: Rank, 49 -- 20.8% of adults obese

Delaware: Rank, 21 -- 25.9% of adults obese

D.C.: Rank, 43 -- 22.1% of adults obese

Florida: Rank, 38 -- 23.3% of adults obese

Georgia: Rank, 11 (tied with Indiana) -- 27.5% of adults obese

Hawaii: Rank, 50 -- 20.7% of adults obese

Idaho: Rank, 31 -- 24.6% of adults obese

Illinois: Rank, 26 -- 25.3% of adults obese

Indiana: Rank, 11 (tied with Georgia) -- 27.5% of adults obese

Iowa: Rank, 19 -- 26.3% of adults obese

Kansas: Rank, 23 -- 25.8% of adults obese

Kentucky: Rank, 7 -- 28.4% of adults obese

Louisiana: Rank, 4 -- 29.5% of adults obese

Maine: Rank, 34 -- 23.7% of adults obese

Maryland: Rank, 27 -- 25.2% of adults obese

Massachusetts: Rank, 48 -- 20.9% of adults obese

Continued

Michigan: Rank, 10 -- 27.7% of adults obese

Minnesota: Rank, 30 -- 24.8% of adults obese

Mississippi: Rank, 1 -- 31.7% of adults obese

Missouri: Rank, 13 -- 27.4% of adults obese

Montana: Rank, 45 -- 21.7% of adults obese

Nebraska: Rank, 18 -- 26.5% of adults obese

Nevada: Rank, 35 -- 23.6% of adults obese

New Hampshire: Rank, 35 -- 23.6% of adults obese

New Jersey: Rank, 42 -- 22.9% of adults obese

New Mexico: Rank, 38 -- 23.3% of adults obese

New York: Rank, 37 -- 23.5% of adults obese

North Carolina: Rank, 16 -- 27.1% of adults obese

North Dakota: Rank, 21 -- 25.9% of adults obese

Ohio: Rank, 17 -- 26.9% of adults obese

Oklahoma: Rank, 8 -- 28.1% of adults obese

Oregon: Rank, 29 -- 25.0% of adults obese

Pennsylvania: Rank, 24 -- 25.7% of adults obese

Rhode Island: Rank, 46 -- 21.4% of adults obese

South Carolina: Rank, 5 -- 29.2% of adults obese

South Dakota: Rank, 20 -- 26.1% of adults obese

Tennessee: Rank, 6 -- 29.0% of adults obese

Texas: Rank, 15 -- 27.2% of adults obese

Utah: Rank, 44 -- 21.8% of adults obese

Vermont: Rank, 47 -- 21.1% of adults obese

Virginia: Rank, 27 -- 25.2% of adults obese

Washington: Rank, 32 -- 24.5% of adults obese

West Virginia: Rank, 2 -- 30.6% of adults obese

Wisconsin: Rank, 25 -- 25.5% of adults obese

Wyoming: Rank, 33 -- 24.0% of adults obese

State-by-State Child Obesity Rankings

Here is an alphabetical list of states with rankings for child obesity (ages 10-17) in 2003-2004:

Alabama: Rank, 11 -- 16.7% of children obese

Alaska: Rank, 44 -- 11.1% of children obese

Arizona: Rank, 38 -- 12.2% of children obese

Arkansas: Rank, 12 -- 16.4% of children obese

California: Rank, 32 -- 13.2% of children obese

Colorado: Rank, 49 -- 9.9% of children obese

Connecticut: Rank, 37 -- 12.3% of children obese

Delaware: Rank, 19 --14.8 % of children obese

D.C.: Rank, 1 -- 22.8% of children obese

Florida: Rank, 21 -- 14.4% of children obese

Continued

Georgia: Rank, 12 -- 16.4% of children obese

Hawaii: Rank, 29 (tied with Maryland and Pennsylvania) -- 13.3% of children obese

Idaho: Rank, 47 (tied with Minnesota) -- 10.1% of children obese

Illinois: Rank, 14 -- 15.8% of children obese

Indiana: Rank, 15 -- 15.6% of children obese

Iowa: Rank, 35 -- 12.5% of children obese

Kansas: Rank, 24 -- 14.0% of children obese

Kentucky: Rank, 3 -- 20.6% of children obese

Louisiana: Rank, 9 -- 17.2% of children obese

Maine: Rank, 34 -- 12.7% of children obese

Maryland: Rank, 29 (tied with Hawaii and Pennsylvania) -- 13.3% of children obese

Massachusetts: Rank, 27 -- 13.6% of children obese

Michigan: Rank, 20 -- 14.5% of children obese

Minnesota: Rank, 47(tied with Idaho) -- 10.1% of children obese

Mississippi: Rank, 8 -- 17.8% of children obese

Missouri: Rank, 15 -- 15.6% of children obese

Montana: Rank, 44 -- 11.1% of children obese

Nebraska: Rank, 41 -- 11.9% of children obese

Nevada: Rank, 36 -- 12.4% of children obese

New Hampshire: Rank, 33 -- 12.9% of children obese

New Jersey: Rank, 26 -- 13.7% of children obese

New Mexico: Rank, 10 -- 16.8% of children obese

New York: Rank, 18 -- 15.3% of children obese

North Carolina: Rank, 5 -- 19.3% of children obese

North Dakota: Rank, 39 -- 12.1% of children obese

Ohio: Rank, 22 -- 14.2% of children obese

Oklahoma: Rank, 17 -- 15.4% of children obese

Oregon: Rank, 23 -- 14.1% of children obese

Pennsylvania: Rank, 29 (tied with Hawaii and Maryland) -- 13.3% of children obese

Rhode Island: Rank, 41 -- 11.9% of children obese

South Carolina: Rank, 7 -- 18.9% of children obese

South Dakota: Rank, 39 -- 12.1% of children obese

Tennessee: Rank, 4 -- 20.0% of children obese

Texas: Rank, 6 -- 19.1% of children obese

Utah: Rank, 51 -- 8.5% of children obese

Vermont: Rank, 43 -- 11.3% of children obese

Virginia: Rank, 25 -- 13.8% of children obese

Washington: Rank, 46 -- 10.8% of children obese

West Virginia: Rank, 2 -- 20.9% of children obese

Continued

Wisconsin: Rank, 28 -- 13.5% of children obese

Wyoming: Rank, 50 -- 8.7% of children obese

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 19, 2008

Sources

SOURCES:

Levi, J. "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America," 2008, Trust for America's Health, August 2008.

News conference with Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director, Trust for America's Health, and associate professor of health policy, George Washington University School of Public Health; and James Marks, MD, MPH, senior vice president, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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