F as in Fat 2006

How Obesity Policies are Failing in America

August 2006

According to an August 2006 report from Trust for America's Health (TFAH), adult obesity rates continued to rise in 31 states over the past year while government policy efforts have consistently failed to provide viable solutions to the growing obesity crisis.

In nationwide rankings, Mississippi was the heaviest state, with an adult obesity rate of 29.5 percent, followed by Alabama and West Virginia. Colorado was the least heavy state, with an adult obesity rate of 16.9 percent. Obesity rates remained the same in 18 states and Washington, D.C. All states fail to meet the national goal of reducing adult obesity levels to 15 percent or less by the year 2010.

F as in Fat, 2006 offers recommendations to curb the obesity crisis, including a 20-step action plan for stakeholders to address the obesity epidemic's health burden and financial costs. This plan highlights a comprehensive approach through which individual efforts to lead healthier lives are supported by families, communities, schools, employers, the food industry, health professionals, and state and federal governments. While personal responsibility is critical to adopting and sustaining healthy behaviors, the report notes that "individual behavior change will not work in isolation."

Some key recommendations include:

  • Fast-track research to identify evidence-based interventions and best practices.
  • Break the cycle of short-term government action by developing and implementing a series of viable, long-term, fully funded solutions. Current estimates place federal spending levels for chronic disease prevention at roughly $3 per person per year -- less than most fast-food meals.
  • Develop an appropriate set of indicators to measure progress in the fight against obesity. Instead of focusing solely on weight loss, measure improved nutrition and increased physical activity.
  • Community-driven efforts that increase access to healthy foods for low-income areas and improve the "built environment" (i.e. sidewalks, parks, bike paths) so that the community setting is more conducive to physical activity.
  • School-based efforts to strengthen physical fitness curricula and improve the nutritional content of all foods and beverages served and sold on school campuses. The report notes that physical education requirements are often not enforced or not funded in schools, and that nutrition in school lunches is often substandard.
  • Employer-sponsored programs that offer employees more places and time to work out, subsidize health club memberships, and provide better insurance coverage for preventive services.
  • Food, beverage, and marketing industry initiatives that improve nutritional labeling practices, such as nutritional labels based on product size instead of serving size.

2006 Report (2.17MB .pdf)

TFAH Release: America's Obesity Epidemic Getting Worse; New Report Finds Adult Obesity Rates Up in 31 States; the South is the "Biggest Belt"

Supplement to Report: Obesity-Related Legislation Action in States, Update

Interactive State Map