Adult obesity rates rose in 31 states last year, according to the fourth annual F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007 report from the Trust for America?s Health (TFAH). Twenty-two states experienced an increase for the second year in a row; no states decreased. A new public opinion survey featured in the report finds 85 percent of Americans believe that obesity is an epidemic.
Mississippi topped the list with the highest rate of adult obesity in the country for the third year in a row, and is the first state to reach a rate of over 30 percent (at 30.6 percent). Colorado was the leanest state again this year, however, its adult obesity rate increased over the past year (from 16.9 to 17.6 percent). Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.
The report also finds that rates of overweight children (ages 10 to 17) ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, D.C. to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the ten states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South.
?There has been a breakthrough in terms of drawing attention to the obesity epidemic. Now, we need a breakthrough in terms of policies and results,? said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of TFAH. ?Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are robbing America of our health and productivity.?
The F as in Fat report contains rankings of state obesity rates and a review of federal and state government policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity.
Other Key Findings from F as in Fat 2007
? Twenty-two percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any physical activity. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity at 31.6 percent and Minnesota had the lowest rate of inactivity at 15.4 percent.
? Seventeen states require their school lunches, breakfasts and snacks to meet higher nutritional standards than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires (6 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).
? Twenty-two states have set nutritional standards for foods sold in vending machines, ? la carte, in school stores, or in bake sales in schools (9 states enacted new laws in 2006-07), and 26 states limit when and where these foods may be sold on school property beyond federal requirements (6 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).
? While every state has school physical education requirements, many are limited in scope or are not enforced.
? Sixteen states screen students? body mass index (BMI) or fitness status and confidentially provide information to parents or guardians (8 states enacted new laws in 2006-07).
Public Opinion Survey on Obesity
The report also contains a national opinion survey conducted for TFAH by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, Inc. from July 12-16, 2007 (with a +/-3.1 percent margin of error). Key findings about government?s role, school lunches, physical education and body measurement include:
? Eighty-one percent of Americans believe that the government should have a role in addressing the obesity crisis. Majorities strongly support government working on proposals to expand education programs about healthy living, provide low-cost access to exercise programs, and reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods.
? Fifty-five percent of parents with children under 18 believe lunches provided in schools are not nutritious enough. Sixty-six percent of Americans rated proposals to establish higher nutrition in school lunches as very useful.
? More than two-thirds of Americans believe children do not participate in adequate amounts of physical activity during the school day or engage in enough physical activity outside of school. More than 70 percent of Americans rated proposals to increase physical education in schools as very useful.
? Sixty percent of Americans favor a proposal to measure students? BMI annually and confidentially provide this information to parents or guardians.
Recommendations for Combating Obesity
TFAH recommends a comprehensive approach for helping individuals make healthy choices including support from families, communities, schools, employers, the food and beverage industries, health professionals, and government at all levels. Some key recommendations include:
? Think big. The federal government should develop and implement a National Strategy to Combat Obesity. This plan should involve every federal government agency, define clear roles and responsibilities for states and localities, and engage private industry and community groups.
? Make healthy choices easy choices. Federal, state , and local governments should develop and implement policies that give Americans the tools they need to make it easier to engage in the recommended levels of physical activity and choose healthy foods, ranging from improving food served and increasing opportunities for physical activity in schools to requiring restaurants and food companies to provide better and more readily accessible information about the nutritional content of their products to securing more safe, affordable recreation places for all Americans.
? Improve your bottom line. Federal, state, and local governments should work with private employers and insurers to ensure that every working American has access to a workplace wellness program.
? Escalate research on how to promote healthy choices. Public health officials have identified a number of strategies to help encourage people to make healthier decisions about nutrition and activity, however, much more research needs to be done about how to effectively promote healthier habits.