STUDY: Redrawing the U.S. Obesity Landscape

A CHOICES paper reveals that adult obesity rates in the United States are higher than previously reported by the CDC.

Adult overweight and obesity are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the United States—a problem depicted in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) well-known obesity maps. However these figures—which have galvanized state leaders to take action, and have been used to prioritize federal obesity prevention resources—may substantially underestimate the true state-level burden. The data behind these maps rely on self-reported height and weight collected through telephone surveys, yet bias in self-reported measures is well documented and results in underestimates of body mass index (BMI). The CHOICES Project, which created a novel method to correct for this bias, found that as many as 12 million adults with obesity (including 6.7 million with severe obesity) were misclassified by CDC state-level estimates. Animated maps showing rates of adult obesity becoming progressively higher throughout all states in the United States

“Accurate estimates of state-level obesity are necessary to plan for resources to address this epidemic,” said Zachary Ward, lead author and programmer/analyst in the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Our corrected state-level estimates provide decision makers with a more solid foundation of data on which to base obesity prevention policies.”

A closer look at specific states reveals some striking findings…full summary and article access at the CHOICES Project website. 

Ward ZJ, Long MW, Resch SC, Gortmaker SL, Cradock AL, Giles C, Hsiao A, Wang YC. Redrawing the US Obesity Landscape: Bias-Corrected Estimates of State-Specific Adult Obesity Prevalence. 2016. PLoS ONE, 11(3): e0150735.