Report finds Texas has the 10th highest obesity rate in the U.S.
In Texas, approximately one in three residents is obese, putting the state in 10th place (tied with Oklahoma) for highest obesity rates in the U.S.
The 16th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report by the Trust for America’s Health found 34.8 percent of Texans were obese. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s population are either overweight or obese.
The state with the highest obesity rate was a tie between Mississippi and West Virginia at 39.5 percent each. Colorado had the lowest obesity rate at 23 percent.
The national average obesity rate was 30.9 percent.
“These latest data shout that our national obesity crisis is getting worse,” said John Auerbach, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “They tell us that almost 50 years into the upward curve of obesity rates we haven’t yet found the right mix of programs to stop the epidemic. Isolated programs and calls for lifestyle changes aren’t enough. Instead, our report highlights the fundamental changes that are needed in the social and economic conditions that make it challenging for people to eat healthy foods and get sufficient exercise.”
The report was based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Obesity to cost US $149 million more this year
Obesity health consequences is expected to increase health care spending by $149 million this year — about half of which is paid by Medicare or Medicaid.
Being obese or overweight is the most common reason young adults are ineligible for military service. The Army reported that they did not meet their recruiting goals this past year for the first time in a decade.
Obesity levels were closely tied to social and economic factors, with lower-income individuals being more at risk.
Nearly half of Black and Latino adults were obese in the U.S. White adults were at 37.9 percent and Asian adults were at 12.7 percent.
Childhood obesity was highest for Latinos with 25.8 percent of youth being obese.
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Some initiatives that are showing promise include healthier Women, Infant and Children food packages and local taxes on sugary beverages.
In 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture changed the WIC packages to include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, reduced the fat levels in milk and reduced the juice allotment.
Since that time, there has been a decline in obesity rates for WIC participants ages two to four from 15.9 to 13.9 percent.
Research on Philadelphia — the largest city so far with a beverage tax — found that in one year, the 1.5-cent per ounce tax on sugary drinks did cause consumers to purchase fewer of these beverages. Retailers also changed behavior by stocking more bottled water and less soda. There seemed to be the greatest effect on those that previously drank higher amounts of soda.
The Childhood Obesity Intervention Cost-Effectiveness Study found that a sugary beverage tax was the most cost-effective strategy to reduce childhood obesity. A one-cent tax per ounce could prevent more than 500,000 cases of childhood obesity and save the U.S. $14 billion, mainly in reduced health care costs.
Albany, California, enacted a one-cent per ounce beverage tax in 2017 and allocated the funds to public health purposes like school programs for cooking, gardening and nutritional education.
That same year, Seattle decided to use their 1.75-cent per ounce tax to, similarly, use the revenue for childhood health programs.
No state-level beverage tax has been set yet. In 2018, California banned any more local sugary-drink taxes until 2031, based on a threatened ballot initiative sponsored by the American Beverage Association. The initiative would have required a two-thirds majority to pass any tax increase.
No single solution is sufficient
“Policies such as these are proving effective in changing behavior. But, no single solution — however promising — is sufficient. Obesity is a complex problem and will need multi-sector, multi-factor solutions,” said TFAH’s Auerbach.
The TFAH recommended 31 actions that could help lower obesity in the country. Some of the recommendations from the report include:
- Expand WIC to cover children up to age 6 and women for two years postpartum and fully fund their breastfeeding peer counseling program.
- Making sure SNAP, WIC and other nutritional benefit programs follow Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
- Increase sugary beverage taxes and use the revenue to fund health programs and address socioeconomic disparities.
- Enforce existing laws that require health insurers to cover obesity-related preventive service at no cost to the patients.
- Fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program and other federal programs that support student physical education.
- Ensure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have enough funding to implement evidence-based strategies for obesity prevention in every state. Currently they only have enough funding to work with 16 states.
“Creating the conditions that allow people to more easily make healthy choices is central to preventing obesity, as is prioritizing investment in those communities most affected by the crisis,” Auerbach said.