The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America is published by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The 12th annual report is intended to address what is considered one of the largest health crises facing the nation.
The 2015 report stated 17 percent of children and 30 percent of adults are considered obese in the U.S., a number that raises multiple concerns for Rich Hamburg, Deputy Director of Trust for America’s Health.
“We’re seeing rates rise for children and adults,” Hamburg explained. “The highest rates of increase are between 40 and 59 years of age.”
According to the study, 23 out of the 25 highest rates of obesity are in the South and the Midwest. Seven out of ten of the highest are specifically in the South. The study also suggested Missouri has the 20th highest obesity rate in the United States for adults.
In 1980, no state was above a 15 percent obesity rate. In 1991, no state was above 20 percent. In 2000, no state was above 25 percent. In 2007, only one state was above 30 percent.
“Now we have a number of states that are over 30 percent,” Hamburg said. “That’s certainly troubling.”
While the results of the report may be troubling for Missourians, Hamburg claimed progress is being made. Over the past few years, the study has indicated a plateau in the rising rates for most states. In 2014, only five states saw a significant increase.
“Prevention, particularly among children – it’s easier and more effective to prevent obesity than to reverse trends later one,” Hamburg said. “So we need to promote policies, programs, education … starting earlier in childhood, promoting good nutrition and physical activity.”
Hamburg said attention needs to be directed toward today’s youth.
“I think a lot is being done, but not being done at a scale that we would like to see. There’s certainly pockets of progress,” Hamburg stated. “We know for sure, and in fact the report highlights a number of individual efforts in certain communities, where we’ve seen some pretty dramatic changes.”
Hamburg explained most of those changes are being made at the district and state levels, rather than large scale movements.
“We’ve seen schools that have taken out higher sugar-sweetened beverages in vending machines,” Hamburg said. “They have brought in ovens in place of deep friers. They have purchasing systems in place now where healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables are being brought in.
“Those were done by schools, certain states, certain communities. Now we’re seeing big national programs, like SnapEd … so we are making progress. It’s more recent that we’re seeing these things brought to scale. I think there’s a broader understanding that this is a problem and that a lot of things need to be done to help out the adult population and kids as they’re growing up.”