According to F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America 2009, a report released this month by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) obesity rates in the United States are rising with no signs of slowing. Adult obesity rates climbed in 23 states. Not a single state showed a decline in obesity rates in the past year.

The highest rate of adult obesity occurred in Mississippi for the fifth year in the row. The high rate of 32.5 percent put it at the top of the list. Out of the top ten states with the highest obesity rates, 8 were in the South. Four of those states have obesity rates above 30 percent, including Mississippi, Alabama at 31.2 percent, West Virginia at 31.1 percent, and Tennessee at 30.2 percent.

In 31 states the adult obesity rate now exceeds 25 percent. In 49 states and Washington, D.C. the adult obesity rate exceeds 20 percent. This means that currently two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight. For the lowest rate of obesity one has to look outside the overweight Southern United States to Colorado where the percentage of obese adults is 18.9 percent.

This growth in obesity rates is a huge change from the past. As recently as 1991 there were no states with obesity rates above 20 percent. This year sixteen different states experienced an increase for the second year in a row. Eleven states experienced an increase in adult obesity rates for the third straight year. There is no doubt about it – the obesity epidemic in America is growing.

In addition to the growing rate of adult obesity, the percentage of obese children has also grown and is now at or above 30 percent in 30 states. Mississippi won the top spot in the list of child obesity rates as well. Mississippi had the highest rate of obese or overweight children at 44.4 percent. Once again, eight of the top ten states with the highest rates of child obesity were in the south. These rates of childhood obesity are triple what they were in 1980. The lowest rates occurred in Minnesota and Utah where the childhood obesity rate was 23.1 percent.

Besides the rankings of state obesity rates the F as in Fat report also reviews the government policies aimed at reducing obesity. There are some positive findings that can help combat the rising rates of obesity. These policies include nutritional standards for school meals in nineteen states, nutritional standards for competitive foods in twenty-seven states, body mass index screenings of children in twenty states, and others. Reports like this are shedding light on the growing waistlines in America while encouraging action to reverse the trend.

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