Adult Obesity RatesA few months ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data showed a decline in obesity rates in American children. Now, Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey has found that adult obesity rate rose to 27.7% in 2014 from 27.1% in 2013. This is the highest annual rate Gallup and Healthways have ever measured since they began to track obesity in 2008. The survey results were consolidated on the basis of telephone interviews conducted as a part of the survey from January 1 to May 19, 2014 with a random sample of 64,546 adults in the age group 18 and older who live in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The major findings of this survey are as follows.

  • Around two-thirds of Americans have had Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than recommended for the past six years. Only 35% Americans have normal weight so far in 2014. Underweight Americans form a very small percentage (2.1%) of the adult population.
  • In 2008, Gallup and Healthways survey found the obesity rate was 25.5%. Though this percentage has fluctuated since then, it rose up by 2.2% points since 2008.
  • The obesity rates are higher or stable in 2014 across major demographic categories compared to 2013. Blacks (35.5%) are the most likely to be obese compared to other demographic groups. The groups least likely to be obese are young adults in the age group 18 to 29 years (17.0%) and high-income Americans (23.1%), who earn $90,000 or more annually. The obesity rate in older Americans aged 65 and older increased up to 27.9% in 2014, which is the largest among sub groups.

Even though pediatric obesity is on the decline, rising obesity rates in American adults raise a red flag. The American Medical Association recently declared obesity as a disease and it is linked to several serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and sleep apnea. The survey points out that taking steps to prevent and reduce obesity at the local level could be the key to address rising obesity rates. Following the examples of localities such as Boulder and Colorado where obesity rates are considerably lower than other communities across the country and the residents tend to be very active, is a good step.

Unhealthy lifestyle and less physical activity are the major reasons for obesity. When Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey collected data from January 2 to December 29, 2012, and January 2 to December 30, 2013, Boulder and Colorado residents were least likely to be obese. The proposed reason for this during the survey was Colorado with its outdoor spaces and activities attracts active residents and encourages them to lead healthy lifestyles. It was also found that worsening eating habits in 2013 may be the reason for rising obesity rates at the national level. Recently, researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health found obese adults in the U.S. spend less than a minute per day for vigorous activity. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), family practice physicians play a vital role in preventing and treating obesity as they can employ a long-term, patient-centered approach to deal with obesity and weight management problems. Healthcare experts point out that they have a huge role in educating patients as in a family physician’s office the patient’s care is coordinated and individual problem lists elucidated. Thus, getting access to physicians is as important as a healthy lifestyle and proper exercise.

Medicare started covering six months of weight loss counseling for its beneficiaries with obesity as a part of preventive service package in 2011. However, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey shows obesity rates are still rising among older people. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) included obesity screening and counseling under preventive services so that it will be covered by insurers with no co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles. In addition to that, the ACA offers subsidies to low-income people. Though the ACA provisions are really helpful for obese people, their actual effects are yet to be revealed. Anyway, physicians should verify the insurance details of their patients to confirm if there is coverage for obesity screening and counseling or subsidies.