CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For the second year in a row, West Virginia leads the nation when it comes to its adult obesity.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health released its 15th annual “State of Obesity” report, which finds the Mountain State’s obesity rate is 38.1 percent, an increase from 37.7 percent in the 2017 report.
The report shows obesity rates now exceed 35 percent in seven states: West Virginia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. States in the American South have some of the highest obesity rates in the country.
Colorado has the lowest obesity rate at 22.6 percent.
According to the report, 31 states had statistically significant increases in obesity rates between 2012 and 2017, with no reports of declining rates in the country.
Dr. Samuel Rossi, a bariatric surgeon at the Charleston Area Medical Center Weight Loss Center, said the increasing rates can be attributed to the lack of physical activity and diet mainly of fast food.
“We’re starting to see diabetes in kids. We see young adults such as 21, 22, 23-years-old that are put on blood pressure medication, and that’s unheard of years back. Adults that are in their early 30s are starting to have knee problems,” he said.
The report notes West Virginia also leads the nation when it comes to adult diabetes (15.2 percent) and hypertension (43.5 percent).
Rossi said an issue facing West Virginians is the lack of income for proper treatment, which is a common issue in rural areas.
“A lot of patients don’t have the access. They don’t have the means to get to providers, means to get to physical stuff, especially if you look at the median income,” he said. “They can’t afford all their medications. They can’t afford to go to all their doctor’s appointments.”
“I have patients tell me all the time it’s either gas and pay for food versus pay for medications,” he added.
Rossi said there should be a larger push in schools to teach children healthy lifestyle habits, as well as a period for physical activity.