According to a recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 18.5% of American children and 39.6% of American adults were classified as obese as of 2015-2016, the most recent years for which statistics are available. The results are statistically unchanged from the previous period of 2013-2014 but are about 30% higher than they were in 1999-2000, when 13.9% of children and 30.5% of adults were found to be obese.
The severity of obesity rates were also notable on racial, ethnic and geographic lines. Black and Latino adults had the highest rates of obesity at around 47%. Obesity rates in White Americans were considerably less than that at 38%. Asian-Americans had the lowest obesity rate with 12.7%.
Geographically, the South had the highest obesity rates of all U.S. regions with 32.4%. The Midwest was virtually tied with the South at 32.3%. The West and Northeast had the lowest rates at 27.7% and 26.1% respectively.
A state-by-state analysis found that the adult obesity rate was at or above 35% in seven states. Those states were Iowa, Oklahoma, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia, which had the highest obesity rate in the nation at 38.1% of adults.
Only two states, Hawaii and Colorado, along with Washington, D.C., had obesity rates below 25%. Colorado’s was the lowest in the nation at 22.6%. Nineteen states had obesity rates between 25% and 30%, and twenty-two states had rates between 30% and 35%.
Strikingly, in 1985, no state had an adult obesity rate higher than 15%; in 1991, no state was over 20 percent; in 2000, no state was over 25 percent; in 2006, only Mississippi and West Virginia were above 30 percent.
The information was compiled by Trust for America’s Health, a non-profit organization that promotes healthier living, as well as illness and injury prevention.
TFAH makes several recommendations for tackling the country’s obesity problem. They call on all public and private health plans to cover a full range of obesity-prevention, treatment and management services, and on restaurants to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into menus and make healthy beverages and sides the default option.
They also call on Congress and the Trump administration to expand programs aimed at addressing obesity including those at the Division of Nutrition at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The TFAH has published the State of Obesity report annually for the last fifteen years. The reports are funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic organization that has worked to improve health and health care for more than forty-five years.
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