By Chris Adams
For the first time in decades, the U.S. has seen slight improvements in its obesity problem, as federal data show the percentage of young children who are overweight dropped in the last decade.
But those welcome improvements have to contend with a rash of other obesity-related statistics that are not so positive.
William Dietz of George Washington University led National Press Foundation fellows though the data on obesity and explained efforts underway to combat the problem. Dietz leads the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the university’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.
He started by leading fellows through Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state-level data on obesity. In 1995, no state registered more than 20 percent of its adult population as obese; by 2010, 12 states topped 30 percent obese.
“If there is some progress on obesity itself, the place we’re not making progress is in severe obesity,” he said.
The definitions for overweight come from measuring body mass index (tool to do so here); while normal BMI is under 25 and overweight is a BMI of 25-30, obese means a BMI of more than 30 and severely obese more than 40.
Dietz detailed the health implications for those who are obese, including pulmonary disease, liver disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and various cancers.
He also described legislative and regulatory approaches to reducing obesity, including efforts to make nutritional information easier to understand and to implement universal BMI screening.
Some of those efforts have seen positive results, including the drop in obesity among children in the government’s Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program. From 2010 to 2014, there was a slight drop in obesity rates in that group.