Geographical Obesity Trends: Where The Fat Kids Live
Come out from under your rock now; childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions and a major public health concern. If you were worried about insurance rates before, just stick around until these kids grow up and watch the rise in insurance rates as the result of an epidemic in obesity-related diseases.
Scientists at the US Health Resources and Services administration in Maryland, using data from the National Survey of Children's Health (NSCH), published state-by-state data of obesity rates among kids 10 to 17 years of age. The data was compiled from data obtained in 2003 and in 2007 from respondents in 50 states and the District of Columbia.
In the four years between data samples, the researchers report child obesity increased by 10 percent in the U.S., which is shocking enough, but it increased 18 percent among female children across the country.
In state-by-state analysis, increase in child obesity in the southeast, where adults are also more obese and have more obesity-related illnesses than adults in other parts of the country, highly correlated. Mississippi had the highest prevalence of child obesity - 21.9 percent. Oregon had the lowest incidence - 9.6 percent. Between 2003 and 2007, Illinois, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Georgia, and Kansas doubled their rates of childhood obesity.
Other state notables include the decline of childhood obesity by 32 percent in the state of Oregon. Among boys, the rate of obesity was lowest in Oregon at 11 percent and highest in Arkansas at 27 percent. Wyoming has the lowest rate of obesity for girls at 6 percent; Texas has the highest percentage of female obesity at 20 percent.
"Overweight" children (not considered in the obese category) varied from a low of 23.1 percent in Utah to a high of 44.5 percent for kids in Mississippi. The percent of overweight children is also rising nationwide.
In the chart below from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you can observe that although adoloscents that were overweight in 2005 and 2006 increase, the numbers decreased for kids 2 -5 years of age and 6 - 11 years of age. The CDC age categories overlap those of the NSCH, however.
In another study, released today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers at the National Cancer Institute report that lower stomach cancers in 25 to 39 years old white adults has doubled between the years 1977 and 2007. Could this trend be related to the upward trend in childhood obesity? Investigators don't know the reasons for the rise in stomach cancer yet.
The next National Survey of Children's Health will take place in 2011. Dr. Gopal K. Singh, who led the study, says it is impossible to predict what the findings will be. "I think the best thing at this point that we can anticipate is a stabilization of the trend, he told Reuters. Hopefully we have seen the worst."
Recommended: Visit the National Survey of Children's Health and find your state's 'report card' on child obesity. The report card includes information on the measures your state is taking to reduce child obesity.