Dylan Scott is a GOVERNING staff writer.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
A dozen states had an adult obesity rate above 30 percent in 2011, and no state was below 20 percent, according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Mississippi recorded the highest obesity rate at 34.9 percent. Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia also posted rates above 30 percent. Colorado had the least obese population in the country, according to the CDC, at 20.7 percent of adults.
The figures were based on the CDC's Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. The CDC noted that the survey's methodology changed in 2011, including the inclusion of cell phone-only households and an adjustment to the survey's weighting, that make the 2011 numbers uncomparable to previous estimates.
Regionally, the South averaged the highest obesity rate (29.5 percent), followed by the Midwest (29 percent), the Northeast (25.3 percent) and the West (24.3 percent). In its own analysis of the data, Trust for America's Health (TFAH), a health advocacy group, noted that 26 of the 30 most obese states were in the South and the Midwest.
“Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced,” said Jeffrey Levi, TFAH's executive director, in a statement responding to the data. "The bad news is we’re not investing anywhere near what we need to in order to bend the obesity curve and see the returns in terms of health and savings.”
Public health advocates have routinely called for more funding for prevention and community health programs, which would in part focus on encouraging exercise and increasing access to quality food as means of reducing obesity. The National Institute of Medicine released a report earlier this year calling for an additional $12 billion in preventive health funding, more than doubling the current level.
Advocates also sharply criticized President Barack Obama's FY 2013 budget, which included $4 billion in cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund, created by the Affordable Care Act, over the next 10 years. The fund is intended to pay for state, local and non-profit efforts to curb public health problems, of which obesity is arguably the largest.
“Without solid prevention, we aren’t going to keep costs under control,” Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, told Governing at the time. “We have to make the case that this is good health policy and good fiscal policy.”
The map below shows 2011 CDC data measuring adult obesity prevalence:
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Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.