State of Obesity 2021

by Theresa Ferrari, Extension Specialist, 4-H Youth Development

Today, Trust for America’s Health released The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, its 18th annual report on the nation’s obesity crisis. The report provides an annual snapshot of rates of overweight and obesity for U.S. adults by age, race/ethnicity, and state of residence. They found that 16 states have adult obesity rates at 35% or higher, up from 12 states in 2019. Unfortunately, with a rate of 35.5%, Ohio is one of those 16 states (see map).

Map of U.S. Adult Obesity Rates, from The State of Obesity 2021, Trust for America’s Health

Obesity means that an individual’s body fat and body-fat distribution exceed the level considered healthy and traditionally has been measured by body mass index (BMI). Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. The U.S. adult obesity rate has been increasing for decades. As recently as 2012, no state had an adult obesity rate above 35%. It passed 40% for the first time in 2017–2018, now standing at 42.4% overall.

Not surprisingly, the report also noted that social and economic factors linked to obesity were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic people’s eating habits shifted, levels of food insecurity worsened, physical activity declined, and stress and anxiety increased. These conditions added to the decades long pattern of obesity in America.

Although the report looks at adult obesity, rising obesity rates are also a problem among children and adolescents. Nearly 1 in 5 (19.3%) of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 have obesity. This rate has more than tripled since the mid-1970s. Black and Latino youth have substantially higher rates of obesity than do their White peers.

Obesity has consequences. In adults, obesity is associated with a range of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, sleep apnea, and many types of cancers, and now higher rates of complications and serious illness from COVID-19.

The prevalence of obesity increases with age, and researchers and practitioners are alarmed by the increased prevalence of chronic diseases among children and adolescents. For example, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in young people has increased significantly.

Establishing good habits early in life is important, because childhood obesity is strongly correlated with risk of adult obesity and poor health. In other words, children who are obese are on a pathway to poor health as adults. The evidence that links lifestyle behaviors (such as food and beverage consumption and physical activity levels) to risks for chronic conditions in adulthood is mounting. By contributing to overweight and obesity, these conditions increase the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes later in life.

Although important, efforts to change individual behaviors  are not enough to make a difference when a problem is this widespread. As suggested by its title, the report offers many policy level recommendations, including funding for obesity prevention programs, availability of healthy school meals, regulation of advertising of unhealthy food and beverages to children, and expanded access to walking and biking trails. In addition to adopting healthy lifestyle behaviors (such as improving diet, increasing physical activity, and decreasing sedentary time), individuals can also take action and advocate for policy changes that support health in their communities.


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Daily Dose- Happy Mother’s Day

Picture of My Mom and I

My Mom and I

According to the History Channel, The American incarnation of Mother’s Day was created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 and became an official U.S. holiday in 1914. We celebrate Mother’s Day on the second Sunday of May every year. The founder Anna created the holiday as a way for people to thank their own Mother and spend time with that special woman in their life. CNN’s article on Mother’s Day gives some of the specifics of the origin including the insight that Jarvis’ Mother was a community health advocate! Below is an excerpt.

“In 1908, Jarvis campaigned for a national observance of the holiday in honor of her mother, who was a community health advocate. Her mom had organized several Mother’s Day Work Clubs that addressed child rearing and public health issues, and Jarvis wanted to commemorate her and the work of all mothers.”

As we experience Mother’s Day this year it is important to look at the core of what Mother’s Day means and find ways to spend time with our Mother (even if that means digitally this year). Sometimes we take for granted the time we spend with family. Think about what it truly means to spend time with someone. What does it look like? How does it make you feel?

For me, spending time with my Mother is often creative. We work on calendars, journals, crafts, and some of my favorite early memories with my mother were doing crafts and activities at home. I have acquired her hobby of cutting out pictures in magazines, greeting cards, and reusing them in my calendar and journal entries.  It usually includes us sitting on the couch, talking over upcoming events, and relaxing. It helps me feel connected to her, more relaxed, and provides a wonderful creative outlet while completing what we are working on. Use today’s journal to spend some time with your Mom and learn more about her!

Today’s journal is a fun one to do with your Mom! Answer the questions about her and then see how well you do! It is harder than it may seem.