Kentucky’s obesity rate and ranking are better than last year, but the figures may not be truly comparable

The percentage of Kentucky adults who are obese is smaller than its was, but the state is still 10th in the country, according to a new, influential analysis by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report found 30.4 percent of Kentucky adults are obese, an improvement from last year’s 31.5 percent and the state’s sixth-place ranking. The numbers do not include the percentage of adults that are merely overweight.
The statistics are based on data collected through telephone surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surveys this year included people who only have cell phones, not land lines. Such people tend to be younger, so officials warned about putting too much stock in comparing this year’s ranking from last year, reports Barb Berggoetz for the Indianapolis Star.

Mississippi has the highest obesity rate in the country at 34.9 percent, followed by Louisiana (33.4) and West Virginia (32.4). Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest rates are in the Midwest and South.

“Obesity has contributed to a stunning rise in chronic disease rates and health care costs. It is one of the biggest health crises the country has ever faced,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health. “The good news is that we have a growing body of evidence and approaches that we know can help reduce obesity, improve nutrition and increase physical activity based on making healthier choices easier for Americans. The bad news is we’re not investing anywhere near what we need to in order to bend the obesity curve and see the returns in terms of health and savings.”

In 2006, obesity-related medical costs were $147 billion or the equivalent of 10 percent of total medical spending, a 2011 study in Health Affairs found. Most of it is spent on treating diseases related to obesity, like diabetes.

The ranking is the first part of the 2012 “F as in Fat” report, which analyzes state obesity rates and efforts to address the problem. It will be released in full in September. For the first time, the report will include forecasts about obesity rates in 2030 in each state. It will also look at the potential impact of a 5-percent reduction in body mass indices. (Read more)
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