Obesity rates among adults have risen sharply since 1980, when no state had an obesity rate higher than 15%. In 2013, a total of 20 states had obesity rates above 30%, the report found.
“While adult rates are stabilizing in many states, these data suggest that our overall progress in reversing America's obesity epidemic is uneven and fragile,” said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF's president and CEO said in a written statement. “Going forward, we must spread what works to prevent obesity to every state and region, with special focus on those communities where rates remain the highest.”
The report also highlighted vast racial and socio-economic disparities related to obesity. Black adults had an obesity rate above 40% in 11 states. Overall, 47.8% of blacks were found to be obese in 2012, the largest of any racial group. Although the rate among Latino adults was 42.5% for the same year, that ethnic group has had the fastest U.S. population increase of all ethnicities since 2002, with a 10-point percentage jump in that time.
Obesity tends to affect poorer Americans at a greater rate than those with higher incomes. More than 33% of adults earning less than $15,000 annually were obese, compared with 25% of those making more than $50,000 a year, according to the report.
Experts have cited certain social determinants, such as less access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and a lack of available green space in low-income communities, as some of the reasons for obesity disparities between low-income and more affluent populations.
The numbers were slightly more encouraging in analyzing childhood obesity, where the report found that the obesity rate had leveled off and even declined in some areas.
Around 16.9% of children between the ages of two and 19 were obese in 2012, a rate that has remained largely unchanged in recent years, although a report released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed declines in the obesity rate among children between the ages of two and four in 18 states between 2008 and 2011.
“A growing number of cities and states have reported decreases in obesity among children, showing that when we make comprehensive changes to policies and community environments, we can build a culture of health that makes healthy choices the easy and obvious choices for kids and adults alike,” Lavizzo-Mourey wrote.
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