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Obesity rates rise across US, finds report

By Lorraine Heller , 02-Jul-2010

Obesity rates in American adults have risen in 28 states over the past year, with blacks and Latinos particularly at risk, according to a new report.

Released by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the report finds that over two thirds of states have obesity rates above 25 percent.

"Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges the country has ever faced, and troubling disparities exist based on race, ethnicity, region, and income," said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. "This report shows that the country has taken bold steps to address the obesity crisis in recent years, but the nation's response has yet to fully match the magnitude of the problem. Millions of Americans still face barriers - like the high cost of healthy foods and lack of access to safe places to be

Obesity break-down by state

The report – F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2010 – found that ten of the 11 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South, as are the 10 states with the highest rates of hypertension.

The number of states where adult obesity rates exceed 30 percent doubled in the past year, from four to eight: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Adult obesity rates were found to be higher for blacks and Latinos than for whites. In nine states, over 40 percent of blacks were classed as obese. In another 34 states, 35 percent of blacks were obese, while 30 percent hit the obesity mark in 43 states and D.C.

Rates of adult obesity for Latinos were above 35 percent in two states (North Dakota and Tennessee) and at 30 percent and above in 19 states. In contrast, no state had rates of adult obesity above 35 percent for whites, and only West Virginia had an adult obesity rate for whites greater than 30 percent.

The report also confirmed the link between lower economic groups and higher obesity rates: 35.3 percent of adults earning less than $15,000 per year were obese compared with 24.5 percent of adults earning $50,000 or more per year.

Although the report highlighted a number of federal and state initiatives to combat obesity, it set out a number of key actions and recommendations. These included: supporting obesity- and disease-prevention programs through the new health reform law's Prevention and Public Health Fund as well as aligning federal policies and legislation with the goals of the forthcoming National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy.

CDC findings

However, a review of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) published last year concluded that obesity rates in the United States actually remained steady between 1999 and 2008.

Researchers led by Katherine Flegal from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found no statistically significant changes for women over the 10 years from 1999 to 2008. And for men, the data revealed a statistically significant increase over the same period but estimates for 2003-2004, 2005-2006, and 2007-2008 did not differ significantly from each other.

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