New CDC data shows a significant rise in number of states with adult obesity prevalence

The number of states in which at least 35% of residents are obese has nearly doubled since 2018 – and disparities persist – according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Up from nine states in 2018 and 12 in 2019, the 2020 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps show that 16 states now have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35%: Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware (new this year), Indiana, Iowa (new this year), Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio (new this year), Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas (new this year), and West Virginia.

Disparities in obesity persist

Adult obesity prevalence by race, ethnicity, and location is based on self-reported height and weight data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Combined data from 2018-2020 show notable racial and ethnic disparities. Among states and territories with sufficient data:

  • 0 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic Asian residents. However, some studies have indicated that the health risks associated with obesity may occur at a lower body mass index (BMI) for some people of Asian descent.
  • 7 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic White residents.
  • 22 states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among Hispanic residents.
  • 35 states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence at or above 35% among non-Hispanic Black residents.

Adults with obesity are at increased risk for many other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poorer mental health. Individuals should talk regularly with their healthcare provider about their body mass index, family history of chronic disease, current lifestyle, and health risks.

What it will take

To change the current course of obesity will take a sustained, comprehensive effort from all parts of society. We will need to acknowledge existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure health equity. These maps help by showing where we need to focus efforts to prevent obesity and to support individuals with this disease.

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