Despite progress, obesity prevention has room for improvement

The rate of obesity has significantly risen over three decades; however, the tides might be turning since obesity rates remained level in every state except Arkansas, concludes a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and Trust for America's Health (TFAH). 

Even though obesity rates have not increased enormously since 2005 and show signs of improvement, the percentage of obese individuals throughout the United States is high, according to the report. Currently, 13 states have adult obesity rates above 30 percent, 41 states have rates of at least 25 percent, and every state tops 20 percent. In comparison, no state in 1991 had obesity rates above 20 percent.

"Even if the nation holds steady at the current rates, Baby Boomers--who are aging into obesity-related illnesses--and the rapidly rising numbers of extremely obese Americans are already translating into a cost crisis for the healthcare system and Medicare," said Jeffrey Levi, Ph.D., executive director of Trust for America's Health, in a statement.

The healthcare industry has been making obesity a major priority. The American Medical Association recently recognized obesity as a disease and the Institute of Medicine advocated for effective obesity prevention.

But, the industry faces many challenges to drive down obesity rates. Insurers' unlikeliness to cover obesity as a condition, for example, presents a major problem in tackling obesity nation-wide.

Moreover, the RWJF report demonstrates obesity rates vary among factors. Obesity rates are high among baby boomers, less educated individuals and those with lower income.

Meanwhile, a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in obesity rates among children, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"After decades of unrelenting bad news, we're finally seeing signs of progress," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., RWJF president and CEO, in the statement. "But no one should believe the nation's work is done. We've learned a lot in the last decade about how to prevent obesity. Now it's time to take that knowledge to scale."

The RWJF report highlights strategies that have improved health and lowered costs, but need greater implementation or funding to significantly reduce obesity trends. For example, the country could gain $5.60 for every $1 invested in proven, community-based prevention programs.

To learn more:
- here's the report
- check out the RWJF announcement
- read theWall Street Journal article