Report finds Montana is 8th-least-obese state in the nation

2011-07-08T00:00:00Z 2011-07-08T12:55:08Z Report finds Montana is 8th-least-obese state in the nation


Of The Gazette Staff

The Billings Gazette
July 08, 2011 12:00 am  • 

With an adult obesity rate of 23.8 percent, Montana was named the eighth-least-obese state in the country, according to a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Also, 11.8 percent of children and adolescents age 10 to 17 in Montana are considered obese, according to data from “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011.”

Compared to the nation, Montana is doing well as a state, said Stacy Campbell of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services’ Nutrition and Physical Activity Program. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2010 state indicator report on physical activity behavioral indicators, 72.4 percent of Montana adults are physically active.

“That is good news and is a strong indicator of why Montana adults fared well in this report,” Campbell said. “In Montana, we are fortunate to have many opportunities for adults to recreate and exercise.”

However, there is always room for improvement, Campbell said.

Colorado was identified as the least obese state with an adult obesity rate of 19.8 percent. Mississippi was ranked the most obese state with an adult obesity rate of 34.4 percent. Rankings are based on combining three years of data, 2007-2009, from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Surveillance System.

Adult obesity rates increased in 16 states in the past year and did not decline in any state. Twelve states now have obesity rates above 30 percent. Four years ago, only one state was above 30 percent. Obesity rates exceeded 25 percent in more than two-thirds of states (38 states).

This year, for the first time, the report examined how the obesity epidemic has grown over the past two decades: 15 years ago, Montana had an obesity rate of 13 percent and was ranked the 39th most obese state in the nation. The obesity rate in Montana increased more than 80 percent over the past 15 years.

“There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last 20 years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and

corresponding health care spending,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health.

In addition, for many states, their combined rates for overweight and obesity, and rates of chronic health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, have increased dramatically over the past two decades. For Montana, long-term trends in rates include:

Fifteen years ago, Montana had a combined obesity and overweight rate of 49.1 percent. Ten years ago, it was 52.4 percent. Now, the combined rate is 61.7 percent.

Diabetes rates have doubled in 10 states over the past 15 years. In 1995, Montana had a diabetes rate of 4.2 percent. Now it is 6.8 percent.

Fifteen years ago, Montana had a hypertension rate of 21.7 percent. Now, the rate is 25.7 percent.

Racial and ethnic minority adults, and those with less education or who make less money, continue to have the highest overall obesity rates:

Adult obesity rates in Montana were 17.1 percent for blacks. Nationally, obesity rates for blacks topped 40 percent in 15 states, 35 percent in 35 states, and 30 percent in 42 states and D.C.

Rates of adult obesity for Latinos were 22.9 percent in Montana. National Latino obesity rates were above 35 percent in four states (Mississippi, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Texas) and at 30 percent and above in 23 states.

Rates of adult obesity for whites topped 30 percent in just four states (Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, and West Virginia) and no state had a rate higher than 32.1 percent. The rates of adult obesity for whites were 22.9 percent in Montana.

Nearly 33 percent of adults who did not graduate high school are obese compared with 21.5 percent of adults who graduated from college or a technical college.

More than 33 percent of adults who earn less than $15,000 per year were obese compared with 24.6 percent of adults who earn $50,000 or more per year.

Twenty-one states not including Montana now have legislation that requires body mass index (BMI) screening or weight-related assessments other than BMI for children and adolescents. Seven years ago, only four states required BMI screening or other weight-related assessments.

Twenty-six states including Montana have now established farm-to-school programs. Five years ago, only New York had a law establishing a farm-to-school program.

Sixteen states not including Montana now have Complete Streets laws. “Complete streets” are roads designed to allow all users — bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and public-transit users — to access them safely. Seven years ago only five states had these laws.

Contact Cindy Uken at or 657-1287.

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