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Report: Missouri, Kansas Weigh In On The Obese Side

Cookie M

Missouri is the 16th most obese state in the nation, according to a report released Thursday.

At No. 19, Kansas doesn’t fare much better.

The 11th annual report on state obesity rankings by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation says adult obesity rates increased in six states over the past year, with Mississippi and West Virginia topping the scales. More than a third of adults in those two states – 35.1 percent – are obese, according to the report.

The report is based on telephone surveys by state health departments, with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A change in methodology makes comparisons with data collected before 2011 difficult, the report notes.

The CDC deems adults with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or higher to be obese. A person who is five feet nine inches tall and weighs at least 203 pounds is considered obese.

“Obesity in America is at a critical juncture,” Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, said in a statement. “Obesity rates are unacceptably high, and the disparities in rates are profoundly troubling.

“We need to intensify prevention efforts starting in early childhood, and do a better job of implementing effective policies and programs in all communities — so every American has the greatest opportunity to have a healthy weight and live a healthy life.”

Despite the seemingly morbid figures, there are signs of progress. Childhood obesity rates have stabilized over the last decade, say Levi and Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Foundation, in a letter accompanying the report.

And for the first time in a decade, they say, “data also show a downward trend in obesity rates among young children from low-income families in many states.”

“Unfortunately,” they continue, “the progress is more mixed for adults. Over the past 30 years, adult obesity rates have sharply risen, doubling since 1980.”

Although that rate has begun to slow, “adult rates remain far too high across the nation, putting millions of Americans at higher risk for a range of serious health problems, from type 2 diabetes to heart disease,” they say.

Nearly a third of adult Missourians  — 30.4 percent — are obese, equally divided between men and women. For white residents, the percentage is 28.8 percent; for blacks, it’s 40 percent; and for Latinos, it’s 33.6 percent.

Missouri fared even worse among high schoolers. The state is the eighth worst in that category, with 14.9 percent of high school students considered obese. Kentucky had the worst high school obesity rate, 18 percent.

In Kansas, 30 percent of adults are obese, according to the report. For men, the percentage is 30.5 and for women it’s 29.1. More than 29 percent of white residents are obese, compared with 39.2 percent for blacks and 33.5 percent for Latinos.  

Colorado has the lowest adult obesity rate in the nation at 21.3 percent, followed by Hawaii, 21.8 percent, the District of Columbia, 22.9 percent, and Massachusetts, 23.6 percent.

Twenty states have rates at or above 30 percent, according to the report. And 43 states have rates at or above 25 percent. Every state weighed in at more than 20 percent.

Overall, the report says, 34.9 percent of adults in the United States are obese. Underscoring racial and ethnic disparities in obesity, nearly half of blacks, 47.8 percent, are obese. Among Latinos, the rate is 42.5 percent.

The report recommendsseveral obesity-prevention policies in black and Latino communities, including expanding access to and improving people’s knowledge about affordable health foods and opportunities for physical activity.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
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