Report Identifies States With Highest Rates of Obesity Among High Schoolers

By Bryan Toporek — September 05, 2014 2 min read
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Though childhood-obesity rates have leveled off over the past decade, at least 15 percent of high schoolers in seven states were considered obese in 2013, according to a report released Thursday by the Trust for American’s Health (TFAH) and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which drew upon data from 42 states, the report notes an increase in the percentage of children considered obese (10.6 percent to 13.7 percent) and overweight (14.2 percent to 16.6 percent) from 1999 to 2013. Among females, 10.9 percent were considered obese and 16.6 percent were considered overweight, while 16.6 percent and 16.5 percent of boys, respectively, were considered obese and overweight.

Kentucky led the way in terms of high school obesity, with 18 percent of its high school students considered obese. The Bluegrass State was closely followed by Arkansas (17.8 percent), Alabama (17.1 percent), Tennessee (16.9 percent), and Texas (15.7 percent).

Here’s a look at the state-by-state data from 2013:

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The report also delved into demographic data, revealing ethnic disparities between whites, African-Americans, and Latinos in terms of high school obesity rates. A significantly higher percentage of black females were considered obese in 2013 compared to whites, Latinos, and the overall female student population, while a greater percentage of Latino boys were considered obese compared to whites, African-Americans and the overall male student population.

Here’s a look at how the obese and overweight prevalence broke down based on sex and race/ethnicity:

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“Our efforts to reverse the obesity epidemic will not be successful until we close these disparity gaps,” wrote Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, in an introductory letter. “Our challenge moving forward is to take what we’ve learned and apply it more intensively in communities where obesity rates remain extremely high.”

Accordingly, one of the recommendations presented in the report was an emphasis on education in Latino communities about childhood obesity. Included in that education should be “information about enrolling in federal programs designed to ensure healthy and adequate nutrition, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP),” the report suggested.”

Though the tide appears to be turning in terms of childhood-obesity prevention, it’s no time to grow complacent. Much work remains, especially in minority communities, if this report is any indication.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.