F as in Fat

The 2013 “F as in Fat” report on state-by-state obesity rates. Photo by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Obesity has become a rapidly worsening epidemic in the U.S., but for the first time in many years, there is evidence of improvement and stability.

In the annual “F as in Fat” report, Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation last week co-released state-by-state data for 2013 obesity rates, with several figures indicating that “after decades of unrelenting bad news, we’re finally seeing signs of progress,” according to Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, RWJF president.

  • obesity rates among preschool children from low-income families decreased in 18 states and one U.S. territory;
  • childhood obesity rates have declined as diverse as California and Mississippi, and in cities including New York, Anchorage and Philadelphia that have adopted comprehensive obesity prevention models; and
  • in every state but Arkansas, adult obesity rates remained level after three decades of increases.

The news wasn’t all good, highlighted by one startling figure: In 1991, all 50 states had adult obesity rates below 20 percent of their population. In 2013, every state is above 20 percent.

Additionally, obesity percentages vary significantly by region, age, education and income. Baby Boomers, non-high school graduates, people who earn less than $25,000 and Americans living in the South or Midwest experience disproportionately higher obesity rates.

“We know how fragile a disease like this can be. We should look at this flattening and see that we have to do more,” said Georges Benjamin, APHA executive director in an interview with McClatchy Newspapers. “There is a strong tendency to think that we have solved these problems and then remove resources much too early.”

The report also recommends obesity-reduction strategies, including more walking and biking in transportation planning and universally healthy food in schools.

Read “F as in Fat” in its entirety.