Despite improved state policies to prevent obesity, adult obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in seven states, according to a new analysis. West Virginia ranks number one for obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.
In the annual Robert Wood Johnson State of Obesity report, researchers found West Virginia's adult obesity rate is currently about 38 percent, up from around 24 percent in 2000 and approximately 14 percent in 1990. The current rate is fairly stable from last year’s data.
That may be because West Virginia is actually doing pretty well in terms of recommended state policies to prevent obesity such as PE requirements for elementary and middle school students (although the state does not extend the requirement to high schools as is recommended) and allowing communities to access school recreational facilities outside school hours.
Over the past five years, though, no state had a statistically significant decrease in its obesity rate so more aggressive policies to combat obesity may be needed. There a bright spot, though, the obesity rate among children enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program declined between 2011 and 2014.
Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.