New Report Finds Alaska’s Obesity Rate is 29.8 Percent, 26th Highest
Rates Decreased in Four States: Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio
Washington, D.C., September 1, 2016 — The adult obesity rate in Alaska is 29.8 percent, giving them the 26th highest rate, according to The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, a report from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
U.S. adult obesity rates decreased in four states (Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio), increased in two (Kansas and Kentucky) and remained stable in the rest, between 2014 and 2015. This marks the first time in the past decade that any states have experienced decreases – aside from a decline in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
Despite these modest gains, obesity continued to put millions of Americans at increased risk for a range of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, and costs the country between $147 billion and $210 billion each year.
In 2015, Louisiana has the highest adult obesity rate at 36.2 percent and Colorado has the lowest at 20.2 percent. While rates remained steady for most states, they are still high across the board. The 13th annual report found that rates of obesity now exceed 35 percent in four states, are at or above 30 percent in 25 states and are above 20 percent in all states. In 1991, no state had a rate above 20 percent. The analyses are based on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
The State of Obesity also found that:
- 9 of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and 22 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest.
- 10 of the 12 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South-and rates of diabetes increased in three states (Louisiana, Mississippi and Oregon). Alaska’s diabetes rate is 7.6 percent, third lowest.
- American Indian/Alaska Natives have an adult obesity rate of 42.3 percent.
- Adult obesity rates for Blacks are 40.5 percent in Alaska, the 14th highest rate, and at or above 40 percent for Blacks in 14 states.
- Adult obesity rates for Latinos are 28.3 percent in Alaska, the 34th highest rate.
- Adult obesity rates for Whites are 27.7 percent in Alaska, the 29th highest rate, and at or above 25 percent for Whites in 39 states.
- Nationally, adult obesity rates are at or above 30 percent in: 40 states and Washington, D.C. for Blacks; 29 states for Latinos; and 16 states for Whites.
There is some evidence that the rate of increase has been slowing over the past decade. For instance, in 2005, 49 states experienced an increase; in 2008, 37 states did; in 2010, 28 states did; in 2011, 16 states did; in 2012, only one state did; and in 2014, only two states did. (Note: the methodology for BRFSS changed in 2011).
“Obesity remains one of the most significant epidemics our country has faced, contributing to millions of preventable illnesses and billions of dollars in avoidable healthcare costs,” said Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO, TFAH. “These new data suggest that we are making some progress but there’s more yet to do. Across the country, we need to fully adopt the high-impact strategies recommended by numerous experts. Improving nutrition and increasing activity in early childhood, making healthy choices easier in people’s daily lives and targeting the startling inequities are all key approaches we need to ramp up.”
Some other key findings from the report include:
- The number of high school students who drink one or more soda a day has dropped by nearly 40 percent since 2007, to around one in five (20.4 percent) in 2015 (note: does not include sport/energy drinks, diet sodas, or water with added sugars). In Alaska, 18.8 percent of high school students reported drinking one can or more of soda per day.
- The number of high school students who report playing video or computer games three or more hours a day has increased more than 88 percent since 2003 (from 22.1 to 41.7 percent). In Alaska, 34.3 percent of high school students reported playing video games and 22.2 percent reported watching three or more hours of TV per day.
- More than 29 million children live in “food deserts,” and more than 15 million U.S. children-including 12.0 percent in Alaska-live in “food-insecure” households – having limited access to adequate food and nutrition due to cost, proximity and/or other reasons.
- The federal government has awarded more than $90 million via 44 Healthy Food Financing Initiative financial assistance awards in 29 states, not including Alaska, since 2011 – helping leverage more than $1 billion and create 2,500 jobs.
- 18 states, not including Alaska, and Washington, D.C. set a minimum amount of time that elementary students must participate in physical education; 14 states, not including Alaska, and Washington, D.C. set a minimum amount for middle schools; and six states, not including Alaska, set a minimum amount for high schools.
The report also includes a set of priority policy recommendations to accelerate progress in addressing obesity:
- Invest in Obesity Prevention: Providing adequate funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion/Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity would increase support to state and local health departments.
- Focus on Early Childhood Policies and Programs: Supporting better health among young children through healthier meals, physical activity, limiting screen time and connecting families to community services through Head Start; prioritizing early childhood education opportunities under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA); and implementing the updated nutrition standards covering the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
- School-Based Policies and Programs: Continuing implementation of the final “Smart Snacks” rule for improved nutrition for snacks and beverages sold in schools; eliminating in-school marketing of foods that do not meet Smart Snacks nutrition standards; and leveraging opportunities to support health, physical education and activity under ESSA.
- Community-Based Policies and Programs: Prioritizing health in transportation planning to help communities ensure residents have access to walking, biking, and other forms of active transportation and promoting innovative strategies, such as tax credits, zoning incentives, grants, low-interest loans and public-private partnerships to increase access to healthy, affordable foods.
- Health, Healthcare and Obesity: Covering the full range of obesity prevention, treatment and management services under all public and private health plans, including nutrition counseling, medications and behavioral health consultation, along with encouraging an uptake in services for all eligible beneficiaries.
“This year’s State of Obesity report is an urgent call to action for government, industry, healthcare, schools, child care and families around the country to join in the effort to provide a brighter, healthier future for our children. It focuses on important lessons and signs of progress, but those efforts must be significantly scaled to see a bigger turn around,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of RWJF. “Together, we can build an inclusive Culture of Health and ensure that all children and families live healthy lives.”
The State of Obesity report (formerly known as F as in Fat), with state rankings and interactive maps, charts and graphs, is available at http://stateofobesity.org. Follow the conversation at #StateofObesity.
2015 STATE-BY-STATE ADULT OBESITY RATES
Based on an analysis of new state-by-state data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, adult obesity rates by state from highest to lowest were:
Note: 1 = Highest rate of adult obesity, 51 = lowest rate of adult obesity.
1. Louisiana (36.2); 2. (tie) Alabama (35.6), Mississippi (35.6) and West Virginia (35.6); 5. Kentucky (34.6); 6. Arkansas (34.5); 7. Kansas (34.2); 8. Oklahoma (33.9); 9. Tennessee (33.8); 10. (tie) Missouri (32.4) and Texas (32.4); 12. Iowa (32.1); 13. South Carolina (31.7); 14. Nebraska (31.4); 15. Indiana (31.3); 16. Michigan (31.2); 17. North Dakota (31.0); 18. Illinois (30.8); 19. (tie) Georgia (30.7) and Wisconsin (30.7); 21. South Dakota (30.4); 22. (tie) North Carolina (30.1) and Oregon (30.1); 24. (tie) Maine (30.0) and Pennsylvania (30.0); 26. (tie) Alaska (29.8) and Ohio (29.8); 28. Delaware (29.7); 29. Virginia (29.2); 30. Wyoming (29.0); 31. Maryland (28.9); 32. New Mexico (28.8); 33. Idaho (28.6); 34. Arizona (28.4); 35. Florida (26.8); 36. Nevada (26.7); 37. Washington (26.4); 38. New Hampshire (26.3); 39. Minnesota (26.1); 40. Rhode Island (26.0); 41. New Jersey (25.6); 42. Connecticut (25.3); 43. Vermont (25.1); 44. New York (25.0); 45. Utah (24.5); 46. Massachusetts (24.3); 47. California (24.2); 48. Montana (23.6); 49. Hawaii (22.7); 50. District of Columbia (22.1); 51. Colorado (20.2).
Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority. For more information, visit www.healthyamericans.org.
For more than 40 years the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has worked to improve health and health care. We are striving to build a national Culture of Health that will enable all to live longer, healthier lives now and for generations to come. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org. Follow the Foundation on Twitter at www.rwjf.org/twitter or on Facebook at www.rwjf.org/facebook.