Kansas City, Mo. — Kansas has joined the ranks of states with an adult obesity rate higher than 25 percent, according to a new report released on Tuesday.
According to the "F is for Fat" report issued by Trust for America's Health, Kansas is the 23rd-fattest state, with 25.8 percent of its adult population obese and 62.3 percent either obese or overweight.
Last year, the state's rate was 24.3 percent, putting it 27th nationwide.
"Obesity is probably the largest public health problem facing our country and has the most dramatic impact on the conditions that are driving escalating health care costs," said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "We are now at two-thirds of the country overweight or obese. Some forecasts say that within the next decade that will be 75 percent. People are not leading as healthy lives as they could."
Mississippi led the nation with a 31.7 percent obesity rate, one of three states with an obesity rate higher than 30 percent. The other two were West Virginia and Alabama.
The report, which uses a three-year average to determine obesity rates, says only 22 states now have obesity rates less than 25 percent - down from 31 states the previous year. Colorado, at 18.4 percent, is the only state with an obesity rate of less than 20 percent.
In 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent; in 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent, the report says.
Rising food costs, bigger portions and a lack of exercise all are blamed for the national increase. Part of the challenge is figuring out how to best fix the problem when government resources are tight, the report said.
State Sen. Jim Barnett, an Emporia Republican who also is a physician, said that while things such as school lunches can be addressed by state government, the adult obesity problem is more a matter of personal responsibility.
"We know there's a problem. We don't know how to approach the problem," Barnett said. "It raises the question of how much can you legislate behavior and diet in a population."
A proponent of bariatric surgery, also known as weight-loss surgery, Barnett introduced a measure last year in the Senate to study the cost-effectiveness of the procedure. He said he is optimistic that over time it will become more common and covered by insurance.