Cut The Fat, Cut The South?

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog is calling out the South.

“The south is weighing this country down,” they write in their latest study of adult obesity rates, state by state. “Nowhere in the U.S. are Americans more overweight…Just about all of the [states in the] U.S. south have obesity rates at or above 30 percent.”

Sobering statistics. So, let’s break it down.US Obesity Map

  • The states with the highest rates of adult obesity, according to the Post’s study, are Mississippi and West Virginia with 35.1%.
  • The states below that 35% high-water mark in the South are Arkansas 34.6%. Tennessee 33.7%. Kentucky 33.2%. Louisiana 33.1%. Alabama 32.4%. South Carolina 31.7%.
  • Georgia & North Carolina come in just around 30% with 30.3 and 29.4, respectively.

Where’s Virginia?

The Commonwealth’s obesity rates are better than many of our peer states, 27.2%, with Florida ranking just better at 26.4. Nationally, that puts Virginia behind the middle of the pack. Washington state also weighs in with 27.2% of their adult population obese. Unlike the bottom of the list which is truly concentrated in the South and Southeast, specificially, the leaders in this study with the lowest adult obesity rates were really scattered across the country.

  • Colorado has the lowest rate in the country at 21.3%
  • Hawaii is at 21.8%.
  • Massachusetts has 23.6%

The study digs deeper into demographic disparities that cross state boundaries.

“It isn’t just the south that is having pronounced weight problems—certain demographics are especially prone to larger waistlines, too. There is, for instance, a stark racial divide: Obesity rates rates for blacks exceed 40 percent in 11 states, and 30 percent in 41 states; for Latinos, they are greater than 30 percent in 23 states; but for whites, they are higher than 30 percent in only 10 states. There is also a wealth divide: Over a third of U.S. adults earning less than $15,000 a year are obese, while only a quarter of those earning more than $50,000 annually carry that distinction. And there’s even a generational divide: Baby boomers (adults aged 45 to 64 years old) are more likely to be obese than any other age group.”

Recently, the US Surgeon General called physical inactivity THE biggest public health issue in the country. The Washington Post’s latest look at our obesity statistics seem to concur. Physical activity is one of the most important ways for individuals, communities, and whole states to begin to shake up these statistics.