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Wilson obesity rate ranks near the top

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From Post staff reports

Tennessee, based on a recent report by Trust for America's Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), has the fourth highest rate of adult obesity in the U.S. at 30.2 percent.

Wilson County, while not listed among counties with the highest obesity rates in the state, does have its problems.

According to the most recently published report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Wilson County has a 29.3 percent obesity rate among adults, just slightly below the state average.

Based on the 2007 published report by the CDC, four categories for rates of obesity are listed for Tennessee ranging from 26.2 percent and below in the lowest category to 30.2 percent and higher in the highest rating.

Wilson County ranks in the tier second from the highest as do some 34 other counties scattered across the state, while 50 counties are listed with the highest obesity ratings.

Nine Tennessee counties have obesity ratings between 26.3 percent and 27.9 percent, which is next to the lowest in the state. And only one county, Williamson, is shown in the lowest category, 26.2 percent and below.

According to the TFAH study, the rate of obese adults increased in Tennessee for the third straight year. The report noted that adult obesity rates increased in 23 states and did not decrease in a single state in the past year.

Mississippi had the highest rate of adult obesity at 32.5 percent, making it the fifth year in a row that the state topped the list.

Four states now have rates above 30 percent, including Mississippi, Alabama (31.2 percent), West Virginia (31.1 percent) and Tennessee (30.2 percent). Eight of the 10 states with the highest percentage of obese adults are in the South.

Colorado continued to have the lowest percentage of obese adults at 18.9 percent.

Counties in Middle Tennessee near Wilson with obesity rates higher than Wilson County included Rutherford at 30.9 percent; Trousdale at 30.9 percent; Macon at 30.6 percent; and Jackson at 31.6 percent.

Middle Tennessee counties ranked in the same category with Wilson County included Cannon, Davidson, DeKalb, Smith and Sumner.

Williamson County was shown with an obesity rate of 25.1 percent; Putnam County at 27.3 percent and Cumberland County at 27.1 percent.

Adult obesity rates now exceed 25 percent in 31 states and exceed 20 percent in 49 states and Washington, D.C. Two-thirds of American adults are either obese or overweight.

The TFAH study notes that in 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average for adult obesity was 15 percent. Sixteen states experienced an increase for the second year in a row, and 11 states experienced an increase for the third straight year. The F as in Fat report contains rankings of state obesity rates and a review of federal and state government policies aimed at reducing or preventing obesity.

Some additional findings from the TFAH report include:

• The current economic crisis could exacerbate the obesity epidemic. Food prices, particularly for more nutritious foods, are expected to rise, making it more difficult for families to eat healthy foods. At the same time, safety-net programs and services are becoming increasingly overextended as the numbers of unemployed, uninsured and underinsured continue to grow. In addition, due to the strain of the recession, rates of depression, anxiety and stress, which are linked to obesity for many individuals, also are increasing.

• Nineteen states now have nutritional standards for school lunches, breakfasts and snacks that are stricter than current USDA requirements. Tennessee is one of the states that does have these standards. Five years ago, only four states had legislation requiring stricter standards.

• Twenty-seven states have nutritional standards for competitive foods sold a la carte, in vending machines, in school stores or in school bake sales. Tennessee is one of the states that does have these standards. Five years ago, only six states had nutritional standards for competitive foods.

• Twenty states have passed requirements for body mass index (BMI) screenings of children and adolescents or have passed legislation requiring other forms of weight-related assessments in schools. Tennessee is one of the states that does have one of these screening programs. Five years ago, only four states had passed screening requirements.

• A recent analysis commissioned by TFAH found that the Baby Boomer generation has a higher rate of obesity compared with previous generations. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, obesity-related costs to Medicare and Medicaid are likely to grow significantly because of the large number of people in this population and its high rate of obesity. And, as Baby Boomers become Medicare-eligible, the percentage of obese adults age 65 and older could increase significantly. Estimates of the increase in percentage of obese adults range from 5.2 percent in New York to 16.3 percent in Alabama.

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