Mississippi Tops Scales in Obesity Study


WASHINGTON -- Although health clubs and state governments have made a push to get Americans healthier, not a single state’s rate of adult obesity decreased in 2006. In fact, obesity rates rose in 31 states last year, and Mississippi became the first state in history with a adult obesity rate of more than 30 percent, according to a recent study.

In the fourth-annual report, "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2007," 22 states experienced an increase in the adult obesity rate for the second year in a row while no state's adult obesity rate decreased in 2006. Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate for the third year in a row (30.6 percent). Colorado was the leanest state again this year, even though its adult obesity rate increased over the past year from 16.9 to 17.6 percent.

Ten of the 15 states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and nine in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.

The report also finds that rates of overweight children (ages 10 to 17) ranged from a high of 22.8 percent in Washington, DC, to a low of 8.5 percent in Utah. Eight of the 10 states with the highest rates of overweight children were in the South.

"There has been a breakthrough in terms of drawing attention to the obesity epidemic. Now, we need a breakthrough in terms of policies and results," says Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, which released the study. "Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are robbing America of our health and productivity."

The report was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Other key findings from F as in Fat 2007:

  • Twenty-two percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any physical activity. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity at 31.6 percent, and Minnesota has the lowest rate of inactivity at 15.4 percent.
  • Seventeen states require that their school lunches, breakfasts and snacks meet higher nutritional standards than the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires. Six states enacted new laws in 2006-07.
  • Twenty-two states have set nutritional standards for foods sold in school vending machines, à la carte, in school stores or in school bake sales. Nine states enacted new laws in 2006-07. Also, 26 states limit when and where these foods may be sold on school property beyond federal requirements. Six states enacted new laws in 2006-07.
  • While every state has school physical education requirements, many requirements are limited in scope or are not enforced.
  • Sixteen states screen students’ body mass index or fitness status and confidentially provide information to parents or guardians. Eight states enacted new laws in 2006-07.

In a public opinion survey on obesity:

  • Eighty-one percent of Americans believe that the government should have a role in addressing the obesity crisis. They strongly support the government's working on proposals to expand education programs about healthy living, provide low-cost access to exercise programs and reduce the marketing of unhealthy foods.
  • Fifty-five percent of parents with children under 18 believe lunches provided in schools are not nutritious enough. Sixty-six percent of Americans rated proposals to establish higher nutrition in school lunches as very useful.
  • More than two-thirds of Americans believe children do not participate in adequate amounts of physical activity during the school day or engage in enough physical activity outside of school. More than 70 percent of Americans rated proposals to increase physical education in schools as very useful.
  • Sixty percent of Americans favor a proposal to measure students’ BMI annually and confidentially provide this information to parents or guardians.

States with the highest adult obesity ranking:

1. Mississippi
2. West Virginia
3. Alabama
4. (tie) Louisiana
South Carolina
7. Kentucky
8. Arkansas
9. (tie) Indiana

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