Sept. 19, 2017: Obesity Rates Leveling Across Country

After more than a decade of quickly growing obesity rates, the annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report shows signs of obesity rates leveling off.

In the past year, obesity rates increased in four states (Colorado, Minnesota, Washington and West Virginia) and decreased in one state (Kansas). New Jersey’s obesity rate of 27.4 percent of the population is among the lower states. Colorado has the lowest rate (22.3 percent) and West Virginia has the highest (37.7 percent).

According to the report, adult obesity rates have striking racial and ethnic inequities – with rates above 40 percent for blacks in 15 states and rates at or above 35 percent among Latinos in nine states, compared with rates above 35 percent among whites in one state. Obesity rates are also around 30 percent higher among adults without a college education and with incomes below $15,000 compared to other adults.

Last year was the first time this annual report recorded any declines in adult obesity rates. In 2006, rates increased in 31 states; in 2010, rates increased in 16 states.

“Obesity rates are still far too high, but the progress we’ve seen in recent years is real and it’s encouraging,” said Richard E. Besser, MD, president and CEO of RWJF. “That progress could be easily undermined if leaders and policymakers at all levels don’t continue to prioritize efforts that help all Americans lead healthier lives.”

In addition to the data, RWJF and co-sponsor Trust for America’s Health offer a web-based interactive policy tool, featuring more than 20 policies focused on preventing and reducing obesity.