Study: Government Policy Missing the Mark on Battling Obesity

August 24, 2005 ( - Obesity rates continued to rise last year in every state but one and government policies and actions to date offer little hope of countering the trend, according to a new report.

A news release from the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH), a Washington, DC-based health advocacy group, said that approximately 119 million Americans, or 64.5%, of adult Americans are either overweight or obese. Estimates of the number of obese American adults rose from 23.7% in 2003 to 24.5% in 2004. In addition, 16% of active duty US military personnel are obese, and it is currently the biggest reason for the discharge of soldiers.

The report said that Mississippi ranked as the heaviest state, Colorado as the least heavy, and rates stayed the same in Oregon, according to the F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America, 2005 report. Over 25% of adults in 10 states are obese, including Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, and South Carolina. Seven of those 10 states are in the Southeastern US.

“We have reached a state of policy paralysis in regards to obesity,” said Shelley Hearne, executive director of TFAH, in the news release. “We need more and better data so we can make decisions to get out of the debate limbo in which we are stuck. We have a crisis of poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the US and it’s time we dealt with it.”

Other key findings from the study include that:

  • trends suggest possible future changes to employer health care plans, such as “fit versus fat” premium differences for individuals based on lifestyle and risk for disease due to obesity.
  • a majority of governors throughout the country have taken steps to initiate innovative obesity-reduction and control programs for state employees. However, most statewide initiatives aimed at the general public are often limited to public information campaigns.
  • 40% of states have enacted legislation to limit obesity-related law suits.
  • people who receive food stamps are more likely to be obese compared to both eligible non-participants and higher-income individuals.
  • federal obesity programs are too limited to have a significant impact on reducing or controlling obesity.
  • obesity is exacerbated by the lack of significant policies addressing community design issues such as sidewalks and suburban sprawl – and greater affordability and accessibility of healthy food options – including the “urban grocery store gap.”

The full report is here .