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15-08-2012 | Article

Obesity weighs heavily on South, Midwest

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MedWire News: Big news, but not welcome news: 12 US states now have adult obesity rates topping 30%, according to a report.

Mississippi once again earns the dubious distinction of being the heaviest state, with 34.9% of its adult citizens being obese, compared with 20.7% for Colorado, which continues to boast the lowest obesity prevalence of all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The figures come from an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data published by the Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates, 26 are in either the South or Midwest, according to the report.

"Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and healthcare costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced," said TFAH executive director Jeffrey Levi. "The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. 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."

According to the RWJF, medical costs related to obesity in 2006 were $ 147 billion, nearing 10% of total US healthcare spending.

In 2006, obesity-related medical costs totaled $ 147 billion a year, or nearly 10% of total medical spending, according to a 2011 study in Health Affairs. The bulk of the spending is generated from treating obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes.

"Some cities and states that have taken comprehensive action to address the epidemic are beginning to see declines in their obesity rates. But we need to expand and intensify our efforts. Investing in prevention today will mean a healthier tomorrow for our children," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president and chief executive officer.

The top five states for obesity rates were the aforementioned Mississippi, Louisiana (33.4%), West Virginia (32.4%), Alabama (32.0%), and Michigan (31.3%).

From the bottom up, the states with the lowest obesity rates were Colorado, followed by Hawaii (21.8%), Massachusetts (22.7%), and New Jersey and DC (tied at 23.7%).

By Neil Osterweil, MedWire Reporter