WASHINGTON,USA - Obesity rates continued their climb in 31 US states last year.No state showed a decline.Mississippi became the first US state to crack the 30 percent barrier for adult residents considered to be obese. West Virginia and Alabama are just slightly behind, according to the Trust for America's Health, a research group that focuses on disease prevention.
Colorado continued its reign as the leanest state in the nation with an obesity rate projected at 17.6 percent.
This year's report, for the first time, looked at rates of overweight children ages 10 to 17. The District of Columbia had the highest percentage — 22.8 percent. Utah had the lowest percentage of overweight youth — 8.5 percent.
Ten of the 15 US states with the highest rates of adult obesity are located in the South. Rates of adult obesity now exceed 25 percent in 19 states, an increase from 14 states last year and 9 in 2005. In 1991, none of the states exceeded 20 percent.
US Health officials say the latest state rankings provide evidence that the nation has a public health crisis on its hands.
"Unfortunately, we're treating it like a mere inconvenience instead of the emergency that it is," said Dr. James Marks, senior vice president at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Officials at the Trust for America's Health advocate for the government to play a larger role in preventing obesity. People who are overweight are at an increased risk for diabetes, heart problems and other chronic diseases that contribute to greater health care costs.
"It's one of those issues where everyone believes this is an epidemic, but it's not getting the level of political and policymaker attention that it ought to.As every candidate for president talks about health care reform and controlling health care cost costs, if we don't hone in on this issue, none of their proposals are going to be affordable," said Jeffrey Levi, the organization's executive director.
Many believe weight is a personal choice and responsibility. Levi doesn't dispute that notion, but he said society can help people make good choices.
"If we want kids to eat healthier food, we have to invest the money for school nutrition programs so that school lunches are healthier.If we want people to be more physically active, then there have to be safe places to be active. That's not just a class issues. We've designed suburban communities where there are no sidewalks for anybody to go out and take a walk," Levi said.
Twenty-two percent of American adults report that they do not engage in any physical activity. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity at 31.6 percent and Minnesota had the lowest rate of inactivity at 15.4 percent.And,while every US state has school physical education requirements, many are limited in scope or are not enforced.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study last year noting a national obesity rate of about 32 percent — a higher rate than was cited for any of the states in the Trust for America's Health report. The CDC's estimate came from weighing people rather than relying on telephone interviews, US officials explained.
Adult Obesity League Tables, by State (1 = Highest rates of adult obesity)
2: West Virginia
5:(tie): South Carolina,Tennessee
9 (tie): Indiana, Michigan, Oklahoma
12 (tie): Missouri, Texas
17: North Carolina
19: North Dakota
20 (tie): Iowa, South Dakota
23 (tie): Pennsylvania, Virginia
25 (tie): Illinois, Maryland
31 (tie): Idaho, Washington
38 (tie): New Hampshire, New York
40 (tie): D.C., New Jersey
42: New Mexico43: Arizona
44: Utah45: Montana
46: Rhode Island
47 (tie): Connecticut, Hawaii