Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) have released their annual report on obesity, and there’s no sunshine here. The report is aptly titled F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011 [download PDF].
The report is released every year (since 2006) and tracks obesity rates in all 50 states. The stats below make us want to cry. Seriously, we’re headed down a path of pain and agony for tens of millions of families, and for this entire nation.
1. Adult obesity rates rose in 16 states over the past year. NOT EVEN ONE state decreased.
2. Twelve states, led by the southeast, now have obesity rates above 30 percent: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.
3. Just 4 years ago, one state was above 30%.
4. Obesity rates exceed 25% in more than two-thirds of states (38 states).
5. Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.4%.
6. Colorado had the lowest rate at 19.8% . It is the only state with a rate below 20% (but next year will probably be above)
7. Adult diabetes rates increased in 11 states and Washington, D.C. in the past year. In eight states, more than 10% of adults now have type 2 diabetes.
8. Education matters. High school dropouts have the highest rates of obesity (32.8%).
9. Money matters. Households that make less than $15,000 have a 33.8% obesity rate. Households that have an income above $50,000 have “only” a 24.6% obesity rate.
10. Over the past 15 years, seven states have doubled their rate of obesity. Another 10 states nearly doubled their obesity rate, with increases of at least 90%.
11. Over the past 15 years, diabetes rates have doubled in ten states. In 1995, only four states had diabetes rates above 6%. Now, 43 have diabetes rates over 7% and 32 have rates above 8%.
12. Ten years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 24%, and now 43 states have higher obesity rates than the state that was the highest in 2000.
Here’s what needs to be done:
A) The government must recognize we are in a state of emergency and act accordingly. Many more people are dying and suffering from the obesity epidemic than in any terror attack on this country.
B) While physical activity is important, part of healthy living, the main driver of obesity is excess food consumption. Let’s all agree on that, despite what soft drink company lobbies say.
C) Subsidies for corn and soy should be transferred immediately to fruits and vegetables. Junk food should be expensive, healthy food should be cheap.
D) Kids must not be exposed to junk food and fast food marketing.
E) Food companies must be beholden to a much higher standard when it comes to “health claims” and nutrition labeling.
Now, to all of you who are going to pull the “Nanny State” card, get a grip. This is not about people having free choice versus excess government intervention. This is about much needed public policy to protect consumers. No corporate self regulation will ever do that.
What else can we do?