A new report issued September 18, 2012 projects that if current trends continue, in 39 U.S. States more than 50% of adults could be obese by 2030, 13 states could have adult obesity rates above 60 percent, and all 50 states would have obesity rates of more than 44 percent.
Obesity means having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher — more than just overweight.
The report, entitled titled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012,” is one of an annual series of similar reports issued by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), both non-profit organizations. [See a report about last year's 2011 "F as in Fat" report.]
This is the ninth edition of the “F as in Fat” reports, and includes for the first time “a new study to look at how obesity could impact the future health and wealth of our nation.”
The new report projects an alarming increase in obesity-related diseases and health-care costs over the next 20 years, if current obesity trends are not stemmed.
According to the report, if current trends continue, “The number of new cases of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, hypertension and arthritis could increase 10 times between 2010 and 2020 — and then double again by 2030; and Obesity-related health care costs could increase by more than 10 percent in 43 states and by more than 20 percent in nine states.”
However, “if we could lower obesity trends by reducing the average adult BMI (body mass index) by only 5 percent in each state, we could spare millions of Americans from serious health problems and save billions of dollars in health spending — between 6.5 percent and 7.8 percent in costs in almost every state,” the report states.
“Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent,” TFAH’s Executive Director Jeff Levi said at a September 18 news conference about the report. “Obesity is one of the most challenging health crises this country has ever faced,” he said.
Current Obesity Rates
Currently, “More than two-thirds (68 percent) of American adults are either overweight or obese. Adult obesity rates have more than doubled — from 15 percent in 1980 to 35 percent in 2010,” the new report states.
Moreover, “Rates of obesity among children ages 2–19 have more than tripled since 1980. According to the most recent national Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 16.9 percent of children ages 2–19 are obese, and 31.7 percent are overweight or obese. This translates to more than 12 million children and adolescents who are obese and more than 23 million who are either obese or overweight,” according to the report.
According to figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in August 2012, “Twelve states currently have an adult obesity rate over 30 percent.” “Mississippi had the highest rate of obesity at 34.9 percent, while Colorado had the lowest rate at 20.7 percent.”
The CDC statistics show that “Twenty-six of the 30 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest. Northeastern and Western states comprise most of the states with the lowest rates of obesity.”
Trends and Future Projections
The new report includes state-by-state projections of how obesity rates will look by 2030 if current trends continue versus how they would look if average BMI could be reduced by just 5% in each state.
According to the projections, if current trends continue, Mississippi would continue to have the highest obesity rate, which would soar from nearly 35% today to 67% in 2030.
Colorado would remain the state with the lowest obesity rate, but its obesity rate would nevertheless increase from 21% of adults today to about 45% of its adults by 2030.
While states in the South and Midwest bear, and would continue to bear, a disproportionate percentage of the burden, TFAH’s Executive Director Jeff Levi termed obesity a “truly a nationwide crisis.”
Projected Increases in Serious Diseases.
“Obesity could contribute to more than 6 million cases of type 2 diabetes, 5 million cases of coronary heart disease and stroke, and more than 400,000 cases of cancer in the next two decades,” the authors of the report project.
These projected new cases of serious diseases would be added to the current 25 million Americans who suffer with type 2 diabetes, 27 million with chronic heart disease, 68 million with hypertension, 795,000 who suffer a stroke each year, 50 million with arthritis, and approximately one in three deaths from cancer per year (approximately 190,650) which are related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity, according to the report.
Projected Increases in Health Care and Lost Productivity Costs.
In addition, the report projects staggering increases in health care costs and costs of lost productivity as a result of the rising obesity rates.
“By 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 billion to $66 billion per year in the United States, and the loss in economic productivity could be between $390 billion and $580 billion annually by 2030,” the report projects.
“Although the medical cost of adult obesity in the United States is difficult to calculate, current estimates range from $147 billion to nearly $210 billion per year,” according to the new report.
Rosier Scenario Possible with 5% Reduction in BMI
“[I]f states could reduce the average body mass index (BMI) of residents by just 5 percent by 2030, every state could help thousands or millions of people avoid obesity-related diseases, while saving billions of dollars in health care costs,” the report found.
“For a six-foot-tall person weighing 200 pounds, a 5 percent reduction in BMI would be the equivalent of losing roughly 10 pounds,” according to the report.
The report includes state-by-state projections as to the number of Americans that could be spared from serious diseases, if BMI could be lowered by just 5%. As examples of these findings the authors listed the following in an introduction to the report:
- Type 2 diabetes: 14,389 in Alaska to 796,430 in California;
- Coronary heart disease and stroke: 11,889 in Alaska to 656,970 in California;
- Hypertension: 10,826 in Alaska to 698,431 in California;
- Arthritis: 6,858 in Wyoming to 387,850 in California; and
- Obesity-related cancer: 809 in Alaska to 52,769 in California.
In addition, health-care costs could decrease by 6.5 percent to 7.9 percent, the report projects.
Recommendations of the Report on How to Reduce Obesity Rates
“We know a lot more about how to prevent obesity than we did 10 years ago,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH. “This report outlines how policies like increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable can help make healthier choices easier. Small changes can add up to a big difference. Policy changes can help make healthier choices easier for Americans in their daily lives.”
The authors of the report provide the following summary of their recommendations:
- Fully implement the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, by implementing the new school meal standards and updating nutrition standards for snack foods and beverages in schools;
- Protect the Prevention and Public Health Fund;
- Increase investments in effective, evidence-based obesity-prevention programs;
- Fully implement the National Prevention Strategy and Action Plan;
- Make physical education and physical activity a priority in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act;
- Finalize the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Guidelines;
- Fully support healthy nutrition in federal food programs; and
- Encourage full use of preventive health care services and provide support beyond the doctor’s office.”
Measures like these can make a difference, the report’s authors maintain. “Pockets of progress” are already being seen. For instance, obesity rates in Philadelphia public school students have declined from 21.5 percent to 20.5 percent, according to Michelle Larkin, assistant vice president and deputy director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)’s Health Group.
“To realize this [healthier] future [we] need to invest in obesity prevention programs that match the severity of the problem. We can’t afford not to,” said Jeff Levi, PhD, Executive Director of the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).
The full report, F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2012 is available as a 124 page PDF Document at HealthyAmericans.org, a site published by the Trust for America’s Health.
See related HelpingYouCare® reports on:
New Report Shows Americans Getting Fatter; Serious Health & Policy Concerns (on the 2011 “F as in Fat” report);
For more information on a healthy diet, exercise and other lifestyle factors that promote wellness and prevent diseases, see the HelpingYouCare® resource pages on Wellness/ Healthy Living for Seniors & Caregivers, including:
- Diet & Nutrition: Physical Wellness;
- Exercise: Physical Wellness;
- Sleep, Hygiene, Quit Smoking & Other Healthy Practices: Physical Wellness;
- Activities to Preserve Mental Acuity: Intellectual Wellness;
- Social Interaction & A Sense of Connection With Others: Social Wellness;
- Other Areas of Wellness: Emotional, Ethical/ Spiritual & Vocational Wellness; and
- Healthy Living: Stories of Inspiring Seniors.
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