Who's the Fattest of Them All? Obesity Rates Rise in 37 States

By Melissa Lafsky | August 19, 2008 6:09 pm

fatWell, so much for that whole “curb obesity by 2010” plan: The latest report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says that obesity rates rose in 37 states in the past year, while not a single state saw a decrease. For 19 of the 37, this was their third straight year on the obesity rising list.

So which states were the fattest? The South has typically gotten slapped with the “most obese” label, and 2008 is no exception. Mississippi nabbed the top slot, with 31.7 percent of its adults qualifying as obese. West Virginia and Alabama were next, with obesity rates of 30.6 percent and 30.1 percent respectively. No surprise, Mississippi also had the highest rates of physical inactivity and hypertension, and tied for second highest in diabetes. Colorado was the only state in the union with an obesity rate of less than 20 percent—but is still higher than 15 percent, the government’s target for every state by 2010.

And what has the federal government been doing to help turn the tide of this ever-rising trend? The report mentions the following efforts (and shortcomings):

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture school meal program (which feeds 39 million kids a day) has yet to adopt the recommendations from the national 2005 Dietary Guidelines.
  • In the past year, the USDA added fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to the list of grocery items in its Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for women, infants, and children—the first major change to the program since 1974.
  • The House and Senate overrode Bush’s veto to pass the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, which reauthorizes farm and nutrition programs for the next 5 years and includes an additional $10.36 billion over current spending levels for nutrition programs.

Whether Washington plans to back the banning of fast food joints remains to be seen.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Nutrition & Obesity
MORE ABOUT: epidemics

Comments (1,321)

  1. Sanjiv Sarwate

    Barry Glasner’s “The Gospel of Food” does a pretty good job of unearthing the classism (and latent racism) in debates over food and obesity. And solving the “problem” will involve more than simply banning X type of food, restaurant, whatever. It’s complicated, but two of the biggest culprits are cheap corn and cheap gas, both of which seem funny to say now, with both at higher than usual prices. But corn subsidies have helped make meat, dairy, and corn sweeteners cheaper. We have also built a vast culture that is very car dependent, as shown by our sprawling suburbs and exurbs, which are basically inaccessible and unnavigable without cars. Those who can afford a car therefore drive, a task made easier by cheap gas. Those who can’t afford a car tend to get left behind. And the businesses that survive in areas where a lot of the left behind people live are fast food restaurants, which represent the best calorie-to-dollar value for many people. Poor people don’t eat a lot of fast food because they’re lazy or stupid – they eat a lot of it because they fill their bellies for less (in both time and money) than they would buying groceries and cooking their own food.

    Then we cut recess and P.E. because we needed more time for teaching to standardized tests. That can’t help. But hey, why should fat kids get in the way of corporate welfare for test design companies?

    And there are extensive studies (read “Mindless Eating” for a few) showing how it’s not all that difficult to get people to eat when they’re not really hungry. The food companies have perfected these tactics and deploy them quite readily.

    As I see it, obesity is a symptom of a host of underlying socioeconomic issues. Merely targeting obesity as if it were a disease on its own misses the cultural and social trends that enable it.

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