Obesity initiatives fail

Even though there have been more articles than ever on obesity, more low-calorie products, weight-loss initiatives, adult obesity rates increased in 23 states in 2008, down from 37 states during the previous year, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies are Failing in America 2009."

The report, which covered all 50 states and the District of Columbia, found 16 states experienced an increase in obesity rates for the second year in a row and 11 states for a third year in a row. No states decreased. The rate of adult obesity now exceeds 25 percent in 31 states, which is an increase from 28 states last year. In addition, the rate of obesity exceeds 20 percent in 49 states. As recently as 1991, no states had obesity rates of more than 20 percent. In fact, in 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent.For adult obesity, Mississippi once again fared the worse as it came in at 32.5 percent, the fifth consecutive year it has topped the list. Mississippi also was the worst in terms of overweight children ages 10 to 17, with a rate of 44.4 percent. Colorado once again was the best coming in at 18.9 percent. The two states with the lowest childhood obesity rates were Minnesota and Utah at 23.1 percent.

So how are the federal and state government policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity working? The review found that: 19 states have nutritional standards for school lunches, breakfasts and snacks that are stricter than current USDA requirements. By comparison, five years ago only four states had such legislation; 27 states have nutritional standards for competitive foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, in school stores or in school bake sales. Five years ago, only six states had such nutritional standards; and 20 states have passed requirements for body mass index (B.M.I.) screenings of children and adolescents or have passed legislation requiring other forms of weight-related assessments in schools. Five years ago, only four states had passed screening requirements.

The report identified several recommendations to make preventing and reducing obesity a central objective of health reform, and called for a "National Strategy to Combat Obesity.”The National Strategy to Combat Obesity would define roles and responsibilities for federal, state and local governments and promote collaboration among businesses, communities, schools and families," the report noted.