Report Finds No Traction on Lowering Obesity

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If the latest figures are accurate, Oklahoma is only getting fatter.

Thirty-three percent of the population was considered obese in 2014, making the state the sixth heaviest overall, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2013, Oklahoma’s rate was slightly less, at 32.5 percent, and it ranked seventh highest.

Tony Sellars, communications director for the Oklahoma State Department of Health, called obesity “one of our flagship issues.”

The causes are varied and intertwined, including a cultural aversion to regular physical activity and the prevalence of “food deserts” in which affordable healthful foods are not easily available, Sellars said. Poverty, mental health and addiction also are factors. Black and Latino communities suffer disproportionately high rates of obesity. The issue is a national one, but obesity is most prevalent in the Midwest and South.

Being obese, which the CDC defines as having a body mass index of 30 or higher, is often associated with heart disease and other illnesses.

The Oklahoma Health Improvement Plan calls for reducing the obesity rate to 29.5 percent in 2020. The results released Monday, based on a federal survey, are a step backward.

Sellars said the state’s obesity rate has been growing at a slower rates in recent years. The state has expanded its efforts to address the problem, including extending fitness grants to schools and tripling, to 66, the number of counties involved in a program to increase physical activity and improve nutrition.

“We’re not winning the fight yet, but everybody’s got to be involved in it – at the community level,” Sellars said.


Obesity Rates, by State

Oklahoma ranked sixth highest in obesity rates in 2014, according to the latest federal survey on the issue.
StatePercent Obese
Arkansas35.9
West Virginia35.7
Mississippi35.5
Louisiana34.9
Alabama33.5
Oklahoma33.0
Indiana32.7
Ohio32.6
North Dakota32.2
South Carolina32.1
Texas31.9
Kentucky31.6
Kansas31.3
Tennessee31.2
Wisconsin31.2
Iowa30.9
Delaware30.7
Michigan30.7
Georgia30.5
Missouri30.2
Nebraska30.2
Pennsylvania30.2
South Dakota29.8
Alaska29.7
North Carolina29.7
Maryland29.6
Wyoming29.5
Illinois29.3
Arizona28.9
Idaho28.9
Virginia28.5
New Mexico28.4
Puerto Rico28.3
Maine28.2
Guam28
Oregon27.9
Nevada27.7
Minnesota27.6
New Hampshire27.4
Washington27.3
New York27.0
Rhode Island27.0
New Jersey26.9
Montana26.4
Connecticut26.3
Florida26.2
Utah25.7
Vermont24.8
California24.7
Massachusetts23.3
Hawaii22.1
District of Columbia21.7
Colorado21.3
Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.