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Healthcare: Obesity in America

When considering short and long term healthcare costs it's important to look at areas where we can control the costs with changes that don't even need to go through legislative process. The easy target is our behavior in understanding how to eat and live healthy. This in turn can reduce long term costs and yield quality of life benefits.
Healthcare: Obesity in America

Obesity: 2010 Data

Economic Consequences

Overweight and obesity and their associated health problems have a significant economic impact on the U.S. health care system (USDHHS, 2001). Medical costs associated with overweight and obesity may involve direct and indirect costs (Wolf and Colditz, 1998; Wolf, 1998). Direct medical costs may include preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to obesity. Indirect costs relate to morbidity and mortality costs. Morbidity costs are defined as the value of income lost from decreased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and bed days. Mortality costs are the value of future income lost by premature death.

National Estimated Cost of Obesity

The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion (Finkelstein, 2009).

Health Consequences

Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as "overweight" and "obesity,"* the risks for the following conditions also increases:1

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. For more, see Defining Obesity.

U.S. Obesity Trends

National Obesity Trends

About one-third of U.S. adults (33.8%) are obese.
Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
[Data from the National Health and Examination Survey (NHANES)]

Trends by State 1985–2010

During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. In 2010, no state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-six states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia) had a prevalence of 30% or more.

Link to animated map that below shows the United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2010.

1985 Obesity Data

Obesity map. For data, see PowerPoint or PDF linked above.
2010 State Obesity Rates
State % State % State % State %
Alabama 32.2 Illinois 28.2 Montana 23.0 Rhode Island 25.5
Alaska 24.5 Indiana 29.6 Nebraska 26.9 South Carolina 31.5
Arizona 24.3 Iowa 28.4 Nevada 22.4 South Dakota 27.3
Arkansas 30.1 Kansas 29.4 New Hampshire 25.0 Tennessee 30.8
California 24.0 Kentucky 31.3 New Jersey 23.8 Texas 31.0
Colorado 21.0 Louisiana 31.0 New Mexico 25.1 Utah 22.5
Connecticut 22.5 Maine 26.8 New York 23.9 Vermont 23.2
Delaware 28.0 Maryland 27.1 North Carolina 27.8 Virginia 26.0
District of Columbia 22.2 Massachusetts 23.0 North Dakota 27.2 Washington 25.5
Florida 26.6 Michigan 30.9 Ohio 29.2 West Virginia 32.5
Georgia 29.6 Minnesota 24.8 Oklahoma 30.4 Wisconsin 26.3
Hawaii 22.7 Mississippi 34.0 Oregon 26.8 Wyoming 25.1
Idaho 26.5 Missouri 30.5 Pennsylvania 28.6

The data shown in these maps were collected through the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), on the basis of self-reported weight and height. Each year, state health departments use standard procedures to collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults. Prevalence estimates generated for the maps may vary slightly from those generated for the states by the BRFSS as slightly different analytic methods are used.

County-Specific Obesity, Diabetes, and Physical Inactivity Prevalence

Combining county-level estimates for obesity, diagnosed diabetes, and leisure time physical inactivity for 2008 show that counties with high levels of all three conditions are primarily concentrated in the South and Appalachia, while counties with low levels of all three conditions are primarily concentrated in the Northeast and West.

For more, see:

Data and Statistics

Obesity rates among all children in the United States

(Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey)

[Read article]

  • Approximately 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and adolescents aged 2—19 years are obese.
  • Since 1980, obesity prevalence among children and adolescents has almost tripled.
  • There are significant racial and ethnic disparities in obesity prevalence among U.S. children and adolescents. In 2007—2008, Hispanic boys, aged 2 to 19 years,were significantly more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white boys, and non-Hispanic black girls were significantly more likely to be obese than non-Hispanic white girls.

Obesity rates among low-income preschool children

(Data from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System)

  • 1 of 7 low-income, preschool-aged children is obese. [Check out this Fact Sheet to learn more (PDF-1.5Mb)]
  • County obesity rates are variable within states. Even states with the lowest prevalence of obesity have counties where many low-income children are obese and at risk for chronic disease.

2009 State Prevalence Among
Low-Income Children Aged 2 to 4 Years

Child obesity rates among children in the United States

2007—2009 County Obesity Prevalence Among
Low-Income Children Aged 2 to 4 Years

Obesity rates were found to be highest in Indian tribal organizations, in western and southern California, southern Texas, the central and north eastern seaboard, some Appalachian states, and in counties touching the Pacific Ocean.  Several counties in the Rocky Mountains have prevalences below 10%.


Diabetes Trend Data as of 2008

Diabetes Trend Data 2008

County Level Estimates of Leisure-Time Physical Inactivity — U.S. Maps

2008 Age-Adjusted Estimates of the Percentage of Adults

US Physical Activity 2008 Estimates

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