State Obesity Rates: Numbers Get Worse

Mississippi Most Obese State in Annual "F as in Fat" Report

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on August 20, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

Aug. 27, 2007 -- This year's annual "F as in Fat" obesity report gives U.S. anti-obesity efforts an F as in Failure.

Since last year's report, obesity got worse in 31 states. How many states got better? Zero. States that appear to have improved in the rankings did so only because other states got worse.

"This report is a devastating indictment. We are still treating obesity like a mere inconvenience rather than the emergency it is. We are not sending a wake-up call -- we are ringing the emergency alarm," said James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of the health group at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Marks spoke at a news conference announcing this year's report. At the conference, Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, announced that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has made an "unprecedented commitment" of $500 million to fund anti-obesity efforts.

The report shows that Mississippi is still the most obese state in the nation. It's the first state in which over 30% of adults are obese. But Mississippians are just ahead of the curve.

The rest of the U.S. is catching up. In 1991, no state's obesity rate topped 20% of adults. In 2006, more than 20% of adults were obese in every state except for Massachusetts (at 19.8%) and Colorado (at 17.6%).

For kids, the news is even worse. Child obesity rates have tripled since 1980 and continue to grow faster than adult obesity rates. Nearly all obese children will fight health problems for the rest of their lives.

The report comes from monthly self-report telephone interviews conducted in 2006 by the CDC. Since people tend to say they weight less than they actually do, the findings almost certainly underestimate the problem.

This is the fourth annual obesity report from the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America's Health. As it did in 2004, 2005, and 2006, the report calls for immediate action.

"The nation still lacks a comprehensive, effective strategy to combat obesity," Levi said at the news conference. "The country needs to develop a plan to combat obesity in proportion to the enormous scale and depth of the problem."

The recommendations of the 120-page report call for:

  • Better federal leadership -- including a comprehensive national strategy
  • Federal and state support for workplace anti-obesity programs
  • Helping all Americans become more physically active
  • Helping all Americans choose healthier foods
  • Accelerating research into ways to promote lifestyle changes

"We have treated obesity as a minor cosmetic problem, but this is central to the rise of health care costs in our nation and central to the rise in preventable disease in our communities," Marks said. "It required a lot of changes to our society to allow people to get this fat so easily. It will take all of us working together to recognize this as the crisis it is."

State-by-State Obesity Rankings

These are the states with the highest percentage of obese adults:

1. Mississippi, 30.6% obese (last year's rank: 1)
2. West Virginia, 29.8% obese (last year's rank: 3)
3. Alabama, 29.4% obese (last year's rank: 2)
4. Louisiana, 28.2% obese (last year's rank: 4)
5. (tie for 5th) South Carolina, 27.8% obese (last year's rank: tied for 8th)
5. (tie for 5th) Tennessee, 27.8% obese (last year's rank: 6)
7. Kentucky, 27.5% obese (last year's rank: 5)
8. Arkansas, 27.0% obese (last year's rank: 7)
9. (tie for 9th) Indiana, 26.8% obese (last year's rank: tied for 8th)
9. (tie for 9th) Michigan, 26.8% obese (last year's rank: 11)
9. (tie for 9th) Oklahoma, 26.8% obese (last year's rank: 13)

12. (tie for 12th) Missouri, 26.3% obese (last year's rank: 14)
12. (tie for 12th) Texas, 26.3% obese (last year's rank: 10)
14. Georgia, 26.1% obese (last year's rank: 12)
15. Ohio, 26.0% obese (last year's rank: 15)

For the first time, the report lists the states (including the District of Columbia) with the highest percentage of obese children aged 10-17:

1. District of Columbia, 22.8% of children/teens obese
2. West Virginia, 20.9% of children/teens obese
3. Kentucky, 20.6% of children/teens obese
4. Tennessee, 20.0% of children/teens obese
5. North Carolina, 19.3% of children/teens obese
6. Texas, 19.1% of children/teens obese
7. South Carolina, 18.9% of children/teens obese
8. Mississippi, 17.8% of children/teens obese
9. Louisiana, 17.2% of children/teens obese
10. New Mexico, 16.8% of children/teens obese

Complete State List

This is the complete state list for adult obesity:

Alabama 29.4% obese, rank: 3
Alaska 25.8% obese, rank: 16
Arizona 21.7% obese, rank: 43
Arkansas 27.0% obese, rank: 8
California 22.7% obese, rank: 36
Colorado 17.6% obese, rank: 51
Connecticut 20.1% obese, rank: 47
Delaware 23.6% obese, rank: 29
D.C. 22.2% obese, rank: 40
Florida 22.9% obese, rank: 34
Georgia 26.1% obese, rank: 14
Hawaii 20.1% obese, rank: 47
Idaho 23.2% obese, rank: 31
Illinois 24.4% obese, rank: 25
Indiana 26.8% obese, rank: 9
Iowa 24.9% obese, rank: 20
Kansas 24.3% obese, rank: 27
Kentucky 27.5% obese, rank: 7
Louisiana 28.2% obese, rank: 4
Maine 23.0% obese, rank: 33
Maryland 24.4% obese, rank: 25
Massachusetts 19.8% obese, rank: 50
Michigan 26.8% obese, rank: 9
Minnesota 23.7% obese, rank: 28
Mississippi 30.6% obese, rank: 1
Missouri 26.3% obese, rank: 12
Montana 20.7% obese, rank: 45
Nebraska 25.4% obese, rank: 18
Nevada 22.5% obese, rank: 37
New Hampshire 22.4% obese, rank: 38
New Jersey 22.2% obese, rank: 40
New Mexico 22.0% obese, rank: 42
New York 22.4% obese, rank: 38
North Carolina 25.6% obese, rank: 17
North Dakota 25.1% obese, rank: 19
Ohio 26.0% obese, rank: 15
Oklahoma 26.8% obese, rank: 9
Oregon 23.3% obese, rank: 30
Pennsylvania 24.5% obese, rank: 23
Rhode Island 20.5% obese, rank: 46
South Carolina 27.8% obese, rank: 5
South Dakota 24.9% obese, rank: 20
Tennessee 27.8% obese, rank: 5
Texas 26.3% obese, rank: 12
Utah 21.1% obese, rank: 44
Vermont 20.0% obese, rank: 49
Virginia 24.5% obese, rank: 23
Washington 23.2% obese, rank: 31
West Virginia 29.8% obese, rank: 2
Wisconsin 24.8% obese, rank: 22
Wyoming 22.8% obese, rank: 35

Show Sources

SOURCES: "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America," Trust for America's Health, Aug. 28, 2007. News conference, Trust for America's Health, with Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director, Trust for America's Health; and James S. Marks, MD, MPH, director of the health group, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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