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For Immediate Release: July 19, 2011
Contact: CDC Online Newsroom
(404) 639-3286

Latest State Data Show Rates of Obesity Remain High

Obesity prevalence 30 percent or higher in 12 states

Obesity has become a problem in every state, according to data analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No state reported that less than 20 percent of adults were obese in 2010, which means that no state met the national Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15 percent within the past decade, CDC researchers say.

The data also show 30 percent or more of adults in 12 states were obese, compared to no states with that level of obesity in 2000, and nine states in 2009. The new data and updated national obesity trends map was released today online at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/trends.html.

The data come from the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based phone survey that collects health information from approximately 400,000 adults aged 18 and over.

"State obesity rates are still high," said CDC Director Thomas Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. "Some of the leading causes of death are obesity-related – heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. We must continue our efforts to reverse this epidemic."

The nine states in 2009 that reported an obesity rate of 30 percent or more are: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia. In 2010, three more states reported an obesity rate of 30 percent or more: Michigan, South Carolina, and Texas.

The BRFSS data highlight how obesity impacts some regions more than others. The South had the highest rate, at 29.4 percent, while the Midwest had an obesity rate of 28.7 percent, the Northeast had a rate of 24.9 percent; and the West had a rate of 24.1 percent.

"It will take time and resources to win in the fight against obesity," said Dr. William Dietz, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. "This epidemic is complex and we must continue to change the environments that make it hard to eat healthy, and make it hard for people to be active. By doing this, we not only help today's adults, we also invest in our children and grandchildren, so they won't have to endure this serious and costly health burden."

The BRFSS, a CDC-supported surveillance system, collects state-level public health data and provides a way for states to monitor progress toward national and state health goals. To assess obesity prevalence, phone survey respondents were asked to provide their height and weight, which was used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). An adult is considered obese if he or she has a BMI of 30 or above. For example, a 5-foot-4 woman who weighs 174 pounds or more, or a 5-foot-10 man who weighs 209 pounds or more both have a BMI of 30 or more so are considered obese.

CDC supports a number of initiatives, including the two-year Communities Putting Prevention to Work program that helps states, territories, tribes and communities combat childhood and adult obesity through science-based nutrition, physical activity and obesity programs. The focus is creating changes that support healthy eating and active living where Americans live, work, learn and play.

For more information on obesity prevalence, including an animated map, visit www.cdc.gov/obesity.

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