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Obesity Rates Continue to Increase in the U.S.

December 26, 2017

It’s been well known for some time that we have challenges with obesity in our country, but now a recent report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights the increasing seriousness of America’s obesity epidemic.

According to the report, 39.8 percent of adults and 18.5 percent of kids between the ages of 2 and 19 are obese. These numbers indicate a significant increase from just 18 years ago, when 13.9 percent of children and 30.5 percent of adults met the definition of obesity.

 The report also highlighted other alarming trends:

  • Middle-aged adults (42.8%) were more likely to be obese than among younger adults (35.7%).
  • Children between 6 and 11 years old (18.4%) and adolescents between 12 and 19 years old (20.6%) were more likely to be obese than 2 to 5-year olds.

Though there were differences in obesity rates by age, researchers didn’t find any differences based on gender. Between adult men and women and young girls and young boys, there was no significant difference in the prevalence of obesity, which is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of at least 30.

These statistics indicate that obesity continues to be a public health crisis. We need to take even greater steps to address this epidemic because the health implications are serious. Higher obesity rates mean more people are at risk for chronic conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. Rising childhood obesity rates are especially alarming because it means children may experience health conditions and poorer health outcomes at age when they shouldn’t have to deal with these concerns.

Several factors have contributed to the obesity epidemic, including larger portion sizes, over consumption of processed foods, increased screen time that leads to less physical activity, and lack of access to healthy food options in some communities (food desserts and the expense of healthy foods). But eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to eat all organic. There are ways we can encourage families to make better food choices. Patient education is a huge part of this, but so is developing and nurturing programs that target at-risk groups, especially children, and that increase access to healthy foods via farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture and mobile markets. Designing neighborhoods so they are more walkable and easy to bike also may encourage more people to get and stay active.

The obesity epidemic is an urgent public health crisis that will continue to affect millions of Americans if we don’t take even more serious action to address it. As the CDC report illustrates, the numbers are all trending in the wrong direction. We need to focus on helping all Americans, but especially children, make better food choices. If we don’t, we could see even higher obesity rates and future generations even worse off than we are today.

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