Here's an amazing stat for you: According to the Associated Press, in 1995 not one state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. Last year, Colorado, with 19.8 percent of adults being obese, was the only state that didn’t have an obesity rate over 20 percent.
A lot can change in 15 years and not in a good way when it comes to America's weight problem. A new obesity report conducted by two public health organizations recently came out and the news is quite disturbing.
Researchers from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation looked at data from 2010 and found that 12 states top 30 percent obesity, most of them being south of the Mason-Dixon line. Mississippi was number 1; Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana were behind. Not one single state went down in obesity levels.
The study used the standard Body Mass Index (BMI) to measure obesity. By calculating your weight and height, a BMI of 18.5 is Underweight; 18.5-24.9 is Normal weight; 25.0-29.9 is Overweight; and 30.0 and Above Obese.
Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, the group that writes the annual report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation told the AP, “When you look at it year by year, the changes are incremental. When you look at it by a generation you see how we got into this problem.”
And when they looked at race, African-Americans, other people of color, those with less education and those who make less money were the groups with the highest rates. In fifteen states, 40 percent of its Black adults were obese.
That's almost half of the adult Black population in these states. Overall around the country, 70 percent of African-Americans are either obese or overweight.
That's serious problem.
And while losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle has to be a personal decision that we make for ourselves, it's also really important to understand that we need better health-related policies, better access to affordable fresh food and improved health literacy. Levi told Time Magazine that we can't view these numbers as a series of personal failures given all the structural changes that need to happen in order for Americans to be healthy.
We need a combination of opportunities that will make healthy choices easier, on the food front and the activity front," Levi says. "There's always going to be an element of personal responsibility, but even when people are motivated, if you live in a neighborhood where the only food that's available is high-density fast food, it's going to be very hard to carry through on that personal commitment."
Levi points to the First Lady's Let's Move campaign as a model to follow. "You need to be addressing those environmental and those policy factors, but at the same time, you need to be motivating the country," he says. "This isn't going to be solved by Washington waving a magic wand. This is going to be solved community by community."
Read the entire report, "F is for Fat", here.
(Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)