Report: More than 60 percent in S.C. will be obese by 2030

From Staff and Wire ReportsSeptember 19, 2012 

  • Obesity growth Listed are 2011 obesity levels followed by the Trust for America’s Health projections for 2030: Mississippi: 35 percent to 67 percent Oklahoma: 31 percent to 66 percent Delaware: 29 percent to 65 percent Tennessee: 29 percent to 63 percent South Carolina: 31 percent to 63 percent Alabama: 32 percent to 63 percent Kansas: 30 percent to 62 percent Louisiana: 33 percent to 62 percent Missouri: 30 percent to 62 percent Arkansas: 31 percent to 61 percent

— A group campaigning against obesity predicts that by 2030 more than half the people in 39 states, including South Carolina, will be obese.

The obesity rate in South Carolina will rise from 30.8 percent to 62.9 percent from 2011 to 2030, according to the projections released Tuesday by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The two organizations regularly report on obesity to raise awareness, and they rely on government figures.

South Carolina currently is tied for eighth among states in obesity rate, but it would creep up to fifth by 2030, according to the report. Mississippi is expected to retain its crown as the most obese state in the nation for at least two more decades.

The dismal forecast goes beyond the 42 percent national obesity level that federal health officials project by 2030. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declined to comment on the new report.

The report isn’t all doom and gloom. The authors calculated the health-related savings state-by-state if residents can trim their body mass index by just 5 percent compared to the projections. Trimming that much from the waistline would reduce South Carolina’s projected health care costs by $9.3 billion, according to the findings.

“This report clearly highlights the need to address obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases,” said Amy Splittgerber, executive director of Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina. “These are complex issues and efforts to improve the health of South Carolinians requires a comprehensive and coordinated approach. ... The report also paints an extremely alarming picture if these trends are not reversed.”

Eat Smart, Move More has focused many of its emerging programs in schools, churches and communities at large. One program encourages schools to use locally produced fruits and vegetables. Other programs help churches set up exercise classes and communities plant vegetable gardens.

“These are the strategies that can reduce these trends,” Splittgerber said. “As communities work to coordinate and layer these strategies - we can turn this train around.”

South Carolina, while among the fattest states now, is far from alone. About two-thirds of Americans are overweight now, including about 36 percent who are considered obese. After exploding in the late 1900s, the rise in obesity rates nationwide has slowed slightly in recent years. In South Carolina, the obesity rate shot from 13.6 percent in 1990 to 24.5 percent in 2003 and then 30.8 in 2011.

Trust for America’s Health officials said its 2030 projections were based on state-by-state surveys by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1999 through 2010. They said their projections are reasonable.

Their outlook suggests that even in the thinnest state – Colorado, where about one-fifth of residents are obese – 45 percent will be obese by 2030. And Delaware is expected to have obesity levels nearly as high as Mississippi. Delaware currently is in the middle of the pack when it comes to self-reported obesity rates. The report didn’t detail why some states’ rates were expected to jump more than others.

Whichever estimates you trust most, it’s clear that the nation’s weight problem is going to continue, escalating the number cases of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health.

By 2030, medical costs from treating obesity-related diseases are likely to increase by $48 billion, to $66 billion per year, his report said.

The focus of so much of the ongoing debate about health care is over controlling costs. “We can only achieve it by addressing obesity,” Levi said. “Otherwise, we’re just tinkering around the margins.”

For the full report, go to www.healthyamericans.org

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