Study: U.S. citizens continue to pack on the pounds

Sunday, September 3, 2006

WASHINGTON - Adult obesity rates continued to rise in 31 states over the past year, and Mississippi claimed the dubious distinction of being the heaviest state with an adult obesity rate of 29.5%, according to a report from Trust for America's Health.

Alabama and West Virginia followed Mississippi in obesity rates, and the South was found to be the heaviest region, claiming nine of the 10 heaviest states. Colorado weighted in as the lightest state, with an adult obesity rate of 16.9%.

Obesity rates remained the same in 18 states and Washington, D.C. Nevertheless, all states failed to meet the national goal of reducing adult obesity levels to 15% or less by the year 2010.

Government policy efforts have consistently failed to provide solutions to the problem, stated Jeff Levi, executive director for TFAH.

"Quick fixes and limited government programs have failed to stem the tide," said Levi. "Government must step up and provide sustainable funding for sound, long-term policies."

The government currently spends about $3 per person per year on chronic disease prevention--less than most fast food meals, according to TFAH.

Among TFAH's recommendations:

* Develop appropriate indicators to measure progress in the fight against obesity.
* Encourage community-driven efforts to increase access to healthy foods for low-income areas and make community settings more conducive to physical activity.
* Support school-based efforts to strengthen physical education and improve the nutritional content of food and beverages sold on campus.
* Encourage employer-sponsored programs that offer employees more places and time to work out, including subsidizing health club memberships and better insurance coverage for preventive care.
* Improved nutritional labeling practices.

Other key findings in the report:

* West Virginia's adult population has the highest rate of type 2 diabetes among adults at 10.4%.
* Mississippi has the highest rate of hypertension among adults at 23.7%.
* Eleven states require school lunches to meet higher nutritional standards than U.S.D.A. requirements.
* Sixteen state and Washington, D.C. have passed taxes on junk food or sodas.
* Twenty-four states have passed laws limiting obesity-related lawsuits.