News and Tribune

August 20, 2013

Indiana’s obesity ranking is 8th among 50 states

Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, West Virginia, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina fatter

Dann Denny
Bloomington Herald-Times

— Hoosiers’ waistlines continue to be among the widest in the country.

Indiana’s adult obesity rate remained at 31.4 percent, the same as last year, enabling it to retain last year’s spot as the eighth chubbiest state in the country — according to “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013,” a report released by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The latest figures reflect a less-than-desirable trend in Indiana, where the adult obesity rate was 27.4 percent in 2009 (placing it 16th), 28.1 percent in 2010 (17th), and 29.1 percent in 2011 (15th).

Samantha Schaefer, an IU Health Bloomington registered dietitian, said the report is a sober reminder that the Hoosier state needs to embrace obesity prevention programs.

“We have a lot of intervention programs in Bloomington and throughout the state, and we need to pull on those resources if we hope to change those state rankings,” Schaefer said.

“Not all hope is lost. Change is challenging, but it’s definitely doable, and by taking small steps we can gradually turn this big ship around.”

IU Health Bloomington Hospital spokeswoman Amanda Roach said the hospital will soon be launching a new local initiative called “Moving Forward,” a 16-class, 8-week program that will cost $99 and use a comprehensive approach to weight management.

In the twice-a-week classes, geared for adults, dietitians will teach about nutrition and behavioral change, and physical therapists will lead participants in physical exercise. The first class will be Oct. 1, and the hospital will start taking registrations in September. For more information call 353-5252.

William VanNess, Indiana’s health commissioner, said this week during a visit to Bloomington that for every wellness dollar spent, employer medical costs fall by $3.27 and absenteeism costs drop by $2.37, adding that a more healthy Hoosier population would attract more business to Indiana, because companies want a healthy labor force that will consistently show up for work.

Schaefer said that while genetics play a role, our weight and overall health can be significantly affected by choices we make — such as choosing to walk to work or making wise food choices.

“We need to remember that as we age our metabolism slows down and that, and that we have easy access to less healthy food,” she said. “So we need to engage in healthy behaviors and role model those behaviors for future generations.”

But Schaefer did offer a cautionary note about the obesity rankings.

“Weight and body mass index are just two factors to look at,” she said. “Overall health is much more than that. It involves things like chronic diseases, blood pressure, and blood glucose.”

The report shows that Indiana is one of 13 states with adult obesity rates above 30 percent. Forty-one states have obesity rates of at least 25 percent, and every state has a rate above 20 percent, according to the report.

These statistics stand in stark contrast to 1980, when no state had an obesity rate above 15 percent; 1991, when no state was above 20 percent; and 2000, when no state was above 25 percent. Even in 2007, only Mississippi was above 30 percent.

For the first time in eight years, Mississippi does not have the highest obesity rate in the U.S. This year Louisiana claimed the top spot with an adult obesity rate of 34.7 percent, followed closely by Mississippi (34.6 percent), Arkansas (34.5 percent), West Virginia (33.8 percent), Alabama (33 percent), Oklahoma (32.2 percent), South Carolina (31.6 percent), and Indiana (31.4 percent).

The slimmest state, as it was last year, is Colorado (20.5 percent), followed by the District of Columbia (21.9 percent), Massachusetts (22.9 percent), and Hawaii and New York (23.6 percent).