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New Report Shows Pennsylvania Adult Obesity Rate Remained Stable for Last Three Years

September 06, 2016

A new report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, shows annual adult obesity rates by state, from 1990 until 2015.

According to the report, adult obesity rates exceed:

  • 35 percent in four states
  • 30 percent in 25 states
  • 20 percent in all states

Four states showed a significant rate decrease, which marks the first time during the past decade that states have experienced decreases, except for Washington D.C. during 2010. Louisiana has the highest adult obesity rate at 36.2 percent, and Colorado has the lowest at 20.2 percent.

Pennsylvania has the 24th highest adult obesity rate in the nation at 30 percent. While this is up from 20.3 percent during 2000, the rate has remained stable from 2013 to 2015.

Certain rates of obesity-related health issues in Pennsylvania adults—diabetes and hypertension—have decreased slightly from 2014 to 2015. However, these health issues continue to be a concern, as they have had a heightened presence in adults in the state since 1990.

The rate of adults with diabetes in the state has increased from 6.1 percent (1990) to 10.4 percent (2015), and the rate of adults with hypertension has increased from 23.7 percent to 32.5 percent for the same time-frame.

Pennsylvania is working to implement collaborative programs that would help with obesity reduction and prevention, including walkable communities. The “walkability” of a community is a measure of how “friendly” an area is to walking. Walkable communities have significant health benefits, such as increased physical activity.

HAP recently participated in a state collaborative workshop about walkable communities that brought together multiple agencies and stakeholders (including the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and Department of Conservation of Natural Resources; as well as several health care and health-related organizations) to explore opportunities for inter-agency planning for walkable communities, among other priorities.

The Pennsylvania State Health Improvement Plan—a multi-year strategic plan developed in collaboration with a diverse public partnership of stakeholders across the commonwealth, including hospitals—identifies obesity, physical inactivity, and as health priorities.

An example of a successful program focused on improving health and creating a bicycle-friendly community is Lighten Up Lancaster County, which is in partnership with Lancaster General Health/Penn Medicine.

For more information about HAP and hospital efforts to improve population health and address obesity, contact Robert Shipp, HAP’s vice president, population health strategies. 

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