Public Health

Obesity rates fall in 4 states, but overall rates remain high

Tanya Albert Henry , Contributing News Writer

Adult obesity rates decreased in four states, according to a new annual study. But with obesity increasing nationwide, there’s still a lot of work to be done so that millions of Americans aren’t at an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

There’s a glimmer of good news on the adult obesity front this year: Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio saw rates decline between 2014 and 2015, according to the newly release study, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America


With the exception of a decline in Washington, D.C., in 2010, this is the first time in the past decade that any state has seen a decrease in its adult obesity numbers, according to the report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

But the report says work to lower obesity rates is far from over, and notes that its findings are “an urgent call to action.”

Adults in Kentucky and Kansas saw obesity rates rise between 2014 and 2015, the study showed. And, although other states saw rates remain stable, adult obesity rates remain above 30 percent in half the nation’s states.

In 2015, Louisiana had the highest adult obesity rate, at 36.2 percent; Colorado ranked the lowest with a 20.2 percent obesity rate, authors found.

Keep in mind, though, that in 1991 every state’s obesity rate was below 20 percent.

“These new data suggest that we are making some progress, but there’s more yet to do,” said Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health. “Across the country, we need to fully adopt the high-impact strategies recommended by numerous experts. Improving nutrition and increasing activity in early childhood, making health choices easier in people’s daily lives and targeting the startling inequities are all key approaches we need to ramp up.”

More detailed policy recommendations are outlined in The State of Obesity report.

Minorities, those who live in the South, those with lower incomes and those who did not graduate high school are more likely to be obese, according to the report.

Among the study’s findings on where people live:

  • Nine of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South
  • 22 of the 25 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and Midwest
  • 10 of the 12 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South

When broken down by ethnicity, the study found obesity rates are:

  • 48.4 percent among blacks
  • 42.6 percent among Latinos
  • 36.4 percent among whites
  • 12.6 percent among Asian-Americans

And here is how education and income impacts rates:

  • Nearly 33 percent of adults who did not graduate high school were obese compared with 21.5 percent of college or technical college graduates
  • More than 33 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 annually are obese; 24.6 percent who earned at least $50,000 annually were obese

For more interactive graphs, charts and obesity rates visit

The AMA’s online resource Prevent Diabetes STAT provides physicians with information and tools to help patients prevent diabetes. And for more information on how physicians are helping patients prevent diabetes and fight obesity: