Over a third of adults in 22 U.S. states are now obese.

Over a third of adults in 22 U.S. states are now obese.

Rising Obesity Rates Across the United States: A Call to Action


Obesity rates in the United States are skyrocketing, becoming a significant public health concern. New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveal that in 22 states, 35% or more of adults were obese last year. This marks a drastic increase from just a decade ago when not a single state had obesity rates at or above 35%. The implications of this trend are significant, highlighting the urgent need for additional support in obesity prevention and treatment.

Dr. Karen Hacker, the director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, emphasizes the importance of addressing this issue promptly. “Our updated maps send a clear message that additional support for obesity prevention and treatment is an urgent priority,” Dr. Hacker states. She calls for a comprehensive approach that includes focusing on the underlying causes of obesity and ensuring access to healthy foods, safe places for physical activity, and stigma-free prevention and treatment programs.

The 22 states with adult obesity rates at or above 35% are Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. This represents an increase from 19 states in 2021. These statistics underscore the magnitude of the problem and highlight the importance of implementing effective strategies to combat obesity.

Obesity is a complex disease influenced by numerous factors, including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and medications. Dr. Hacker emphasizes that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to tackling obesity. However, there are proven strategies that can make a difference, such as addressing social determinants of health, including access to healthcare, affordable and nutritious food, and safe environments for physical activity.

The CDC data reveal that certain populations are more affected by obesity than others. Among the groups analyzed, Black adults had the highest prevalence of obesity, followed by American Indian or Alaska Natives. White people had a lower prevalence, while Asian-American adults had the lowest rates of obesity. These disparities highlight the need to tailor interventions and support to specific communities to address their unique challenges.

The consequences of obesity go beyond physical health. People with obesity face an increased risk of developing serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and even experiencing severe outcomes from COVID-19. Health concerns aside, the stigma associated with obesity can have a profound impact on individuals’ mental well-being. Tackling obesity is not only a matter of physical health but also an essential aspect of promoting overall well-being.

To combat the growing obesity epidemic, the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activities, and Obesity has developed a range of strategies. These initiatives aim to improve health outcomes, prevent chronic diseases, and address the specific needs of high-risk racial and ethnic populations. Some of these strategies include implementing food service and nutrition guidelines, providing fruit and vegetable vouchers and produce prescriptions, offering safe and accessible family physical activity programs, and supporting breastfeeding.

The rise in obesity rates across the United States is a cause for concern, necessitating urgent action. By addressing the underlying causes and implementing effective prevention and treatment programs, we can make significant progress in curbing this growing public health issue. Together, we can create a healthier nation where everyone has access to the resources and support necessary to maintain a healthy weight and overall well-being.

Sources: – U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, news release, Sept. 21, 2023