Health Nation — 15 August 2012

States in the South and Midwest lead the nation in adult obesity, with a dozen states having obesity rates of over 30 percent, according to a new analysis by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The West and Northeast had the lowest rates of obesity – between 20% and 25% — but the rates are still substantially higher than they were just a generation ago.

“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, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health.

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

“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,” Levi said.

Using 2011 data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the report identifies Colorad oas having the lowest obesity rate (20.7%), while Mississippi had the highest (34.9%).

Mississippi is one of 12 states where nearly one in three adults are obese. The so-called “fat belt” stretches from the Rio Grande River to Lake Superior, encompassing the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, West Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, and Michigan.

The CDC conducted the survey by calling 400,000 Americans in 2011, asking them to provide their height and weight. For the first time, cell phones were included in the survey, making the data superior than previous surveys.Indiana was added to the fat belt in 2011, while Tennessee dropped out of it.

“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, president and CEO of the Robert Woods Foundation.

Later this summer the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation will release their 2012 edition of “F as in Fat.” The annual report will include for the first time a projection of obesity rates for 2030 in each state and the associated health care costs.

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Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth is a professional writer who holds an MBA. Liz focuses her writing on health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, and financial news. Her clients include The Motley Fool, LIVESTRONG.com, Healthline, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog and many others. She’s author of multimedia App and Vook Conduct a Job Interview: The Video Guide.

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