NJ Is Getting Fatter, But Not Among Nation’s Most Obese

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Forty-two states have higher obesity rates than New Jersey, according to a new report from Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). New Jersey’s adult obesity rate is 24.1 percent.

Mississippi has the highest adult obesity rate, at 34.4 percent. Pennsylvania has a 28.5 percent adult obesity rate, while New York’s is 24.7 percent. In two-thirds of the states, obesity rates exceed 25 percent. Twelve states have obesity rates over 30 percent.

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Sixteen states saw increases in their obesity rates since last year; none saw a decrease. Over the past 15 years, seven states have doubled their rate of obesity. Another 10 states nearly doubled their obesity rate, with increases of at least 90 percent, and 22 more states saw obesity rates increase by at least 80 percent

“Today, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” said Jeff Levi, Ph.D., executive director of TFAH. “There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending.”

Fifteen years ago, New Jersey had an obesity rate of 12.3 percent and was ranked seventh least obese state in the nation. The obesity rate in New Jersey increased more than 90 percent over the last 15 years.

“The information in this report should spur us all – individuals and policymakers alike – to redouble our efforts to reverse this debilitating and costly epidemic,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A, RWJF president and CEO. “Changing policies is an important way to provide children and families with vital resources and opportunities to make healthier choices easier in their day-to-day lives.”

The report also examines a range of policy efforts that state governments are taking to prevent and control obesity.

Twenty states including New Jersey now have school meal standards that are stricter than the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) requirements.

Twenty-nine states including New Jersey limit when and where competitive foods (foods and beverages sold outside of the formal meal programs, through à la carte lines, vending machines and school stores) may be sold beyond federal requirements.

Every state has some physical education requirements for students. However, these requirements are often limited or not enforced, and many programs are inadequate.

Twenty-one states, not including New Jersey, now have legislation that requires body mass index (BMI) screening or weight-related assessments other than BMI for children and adolescents. Seven years ago, only four states required BMI screening or other weight-related assessments.

Twenty-six states including New Jersey have now established farm-to-school programs. Five years ago, only New York had a law establishing a farm-to-school program.

Sixteen states — not including New Jersey — now have Complete Streets laws. “Complete streets” are roads designed to allow all users – bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and public transit users – to access them safely. Seven years ago only five states had these laws.

The full report with state rankings in all categories is available at www.healthyamericans.org and www.rwjf.org. The report was supported by a grant from RWJF.


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