The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 13, 2018 1:00 am

Indiana out of top-10 fattest states

But 12th-place 33.6% obesity rate is increase


Well, Hoosiers, we're still too fat.

A report issued Wednesday by two prominent public health organizations shows the obesity rate in Indiana – 33.6 percent of adults – puts the state 12th in the nation. 

The good news: That's two places lower than last year, when Indiana was 10th.

The bad news? A higher percentage of Indiana adults are obese now than last year, when 32.5 percent were ranked as obese.

The nationwide report is issued annually by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Rebekah Pepper, spokeswoman for the report, said Indiana's improved ranking may not mean residents are slimming down. What it could mean, she said, is that other states' numbers “are getting worse.”

The worst state for obesity is West Virginia, with 38.1 percent of residents obese. The best is Colorado, with an obesity rate of 22.6 percent. But even that state slipped from 22.3 percent from last year's survey.

No state has a statistically significant improvement over last year, the report found.

John Auerbach, the trust's CEO, calls obesity “a complex and often intractable problem” in a statement accompanying the report, which also recommends strategies for fighting obesity, which costs the nation $149 billion in annual direct health care spending.

The report notes that 1 in 3 adults is now deemed too heavy for military service, posing “a national security vulnerability.”

In Allen County, a health outcomes report released in March by the foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute found 29 percent of the county's residents are obese.

That's less than the state average and about the same as the obesity rate in Maine, which ranks 33rd in the nation.

The results of the new report didn't surprise Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County's health commissioner.

“We're always right around there at around 30 (percent). I know we went up as far as being 12th, but when you look at the whole trend you don't see much change, although we are flattening (the upswing in obesity) a bit,” she said.

McMahan credited local health officials for sponsoring anti-obesity programs such as Project HEAL, which encourages people to exercise and get and use health-promoting fruits and vegetables.

She also said putting calorie counts on menus has been found to make a difference.

McMahan said she would encourage more information be brought to public attention about the calorie count of large-sized sugary drinks such as soda, juice and specialty coffees.

Among recommendations for states in the report are eliminating sugary drinks on hospital campuses, a ban on advertising unhealthy products to children and encouraging appropriate Medicare beneficiaries to enroll in fully covered obesity counseling programs.

Most obese states

1. W. Va. (38.1% of adults)

2. Mississippi (37.3%)

3. Oklahoma (36.5%)

4. Iowa (36.4%)

5. Alabama (36.3%)

6. Louisiana (36.2%)

7. Arkansas (35.0%)

8. Kentucky (34.3%)

9. Alaska (34.2%)

10. South Carolina (34.1%)

Sources: Trust for America's Health, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

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