New Analysis Ranks States, Finds 12 Top Exceed 30 Percent for Obesity; Michigan Ranks 5th Highest

Twelve states currently have an adult obesity rate above 30 percent, according to a new analysis released by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) earlier this week (8/14/12).   The analysis used the state obesity rates released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.7 percent. Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest obesity rates are in the Midwest and South.  Michigan ranked 5th most obese with a rate of 31.3 percent.

“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, PhD, TFAH executive director. “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.”

A ranking of State by State Adult Obesity rates is available here.

Later this summer, TFAH and RWJF  will release the 2012 edition of “F as in Fat,” the annual report that analyzes state obesity rates and policy efforts to address the epidemic, and provides policy recommendations. For the first time, the 2012 report will include a study that forecasts 2030 obesity rates in each state and the likely resulting rise in obesity-related disease rates and health care costs.

In 2006, obesity-related medical costs totaled $147 billion a year, or nearly 10 percent 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.

“Our nation has made important inroads to creating healthier communities,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, RWJF president and CEO. “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.”

In recognition of the dramatic health and financial consequences of obesity, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) earlier this year released a comprehensive report that outlined strategies for reversing the epidemic and called on everyone to advance those strategies. The IOM committee, made up of nutritionists, public health experts, and leaders from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, called for a focused commitment to: making physical activity an integral and routine part of life, creating food and beverage environments that ensure that healthy food and beverage options are the routine, easy choice, transforming messages about physical activity and nutrition, expanding the role of health care providers, insurers and employers in obesity prevention, and making schools a national focal point for obesity prevention.

While Data Driven Detroit supports all the recommendations of the IOM committee, we also realize that poverty, literacy, crime, and limited food options are highly correlated with obesity.  Addressing obesity means addressing education and creating strong, safe neighborhoods.

A quick analysis of the adult population at the state level shows that obesity is negatively correlated with educational attainment and positively correlated with poverty. These findings show that this is more than just a matter of “craft the message and they will follow.” Obesity is not simply a choice; there are many factors that contribute to it.  The place to start is at home – the neighborhood level.  We must work to create opportunities in all neighborhoods and to close the education and socioeconomic gaps that we continue to see in Michigan and across the country.

The 2011 “F as in Fat” report is available on TFAH’s website at:; the upcoming 2012 “F as in Fat” report will be released later this summer.