Which US state has the highest obesity rate?
Obesity has been rising in the US for years in what some now call a pandemic. Which states are most at risk and why is this the case?
In March 2020, the rate of the obesity in the entire US was 41.9 percent, up from 19.8 percent at the turn of the millenium. The worrying trend not only puts people’s personal health at risk, but also puts a greater strain on services and healthcare facilities. It is estimated that the medical cost of obesity in 2-19 was nearly $173 billion, while the medical costs for those with obesity are more than $1,800 greater than those with a healthy weight.
This rate of obesity is not equal across the country; there are many factors involved which mean some states have much higher rates than others. Similarly, there are trends in the data which suggest certain groups are more at risk of obesity compared to others. For example, college graduates have a significantly lower obesity prevalence compared to those who finished high school without a degree.
Which states are the worst affected?
As a whole, the regions with the highest rates of obesity is the midwest and south. Stretching from Texas northwards towards Michigan, 15 states have obesity rates between 40 and 45 percent, according to CDC data. Based on all of the data from 2018 to 2020, hispanic and black Americans are more at risk of suffering from obesity compared to their white compatriots. Therefore, the states which have the largest amount of people from these ethnic groups are going to be the states with higher obesity rates.
Mississippi is the state with the most obese people with 39.7 percent of residents being obese. This is closely followed by West Virginia and Alabama which have 39.1 and 39.0 percent of obese people respectively. It is no surprise that these three states have some of the largets amount of black Americans in them. 46.7 percent of Mississippi’s black residents are obese, while Alabama has 46.2 percent of their black residents obese.
How can these problems be tackled?
Obesity as a problem for black Americans is a multi-faceted problem, with myriad factors in play. Some of the most obvious are economic disadvantages, with consequences like reduced hours of sleep, and being exposed to violence at a young age. A 2014 study argues that there are more fast-food restaurants and fewer fresh produce shops in black American neighbourhoods comapred to richer, white areas.
Another problem faced by ethnic groups is racial discrimination. In this context, this does not mean that cheeseburgers are racist, but that the help that is offered to ethnic minority groups for problems is lower than that that is offered to white Americans. A 2018 study titled Racial Disparities in Obesity Treatment argues that this lack of support coupled with economic disadvanatges, means it is crucial to pinpoint ethnic minorities in obesity data to better help them.
“It is important to diagnose obesity in racial and ethnic minority groups, due to the higher likelihood of obesity,” the authors argue, “We should ensure access to evidence-based treatment modalities as we combat societal roadblocks and inequalities, which make it more challenging for racial and ethnic minorities to benefit from care for their obesity.”
Though the trend in obesity data is worrying, a growing acknowledgement of support for ethnic groups most at risk from obvesity is encouraging. However, trying to undo centuries of discriminatory attitudes, services and institutions makes progress a daunting task.