WASHINGTON — Most parents think childhood obesity is a problem. Just not their kids’ problem.
An annual obesity report by two public health groups includes more bad news — obesity rates increased in 28 states last year — and also a new survey of parental attitudes about the issue. The survey shows an increasing awareness of obesity and its threat to public health, though that knowledge has yet to translate into results.
“This report shows that the country has taken bold steps to address the obesity crisis in recent years, but the nation’s response has yet to fully match the magnitude of the problem,” said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, which writes the annual report with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
The new survey shows that 84 percent of parents believe their children are at a healthy weight, even though nearly a third of children and teens are considered obese or overweight. Still, 80 percent of those polled by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and American Viewpoint said childhood obesity is a significant and growing problem.
Obesity in adults is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, while overweight is a body mass index between 25 and 30.
Maine ranked as the 29th most obese state in the report, with an adult obesity rate of 25.8 percent, and Maine men were more obese than Maine women. 12.9 percent of children were obese in the state, making the state 37th in the nation for childhood obesity.
Mississippi continued its six-year reign as the country’s fattest state in the study’s yearly rankings, along with the highest rates of physical inactivity and hypertension. The state also has the second highest rate of diabetes.
Last year, four states — Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and West Virginia — had obesity rates of over 30 percent. This year, four more states have that distinction, bringing the total to eight states with rates over 30 percent. Those states were Louisiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arkansas.
The District of Columbia was the only area to see a decline in adult obesity rates.
The rise in obesity rates has been sharp in the last 20 years. More than two-thirds of states now have adult obesity rates above 25 percent. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent.
The report also details racial disparities in obesity, showing that obesity rates for blacks and Latinos were higher than for whites in 40 states and the District of Columbia.