Sixteen states have an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent, an increase from nine states in 2018, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which notes social determinants of health (SDoH) play an influential role.

The number of states with high obesity prevalence has almost doubled since 2018, according to a recent statement from the CDC. Nine states had adult obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent in 2018 and 12 states in 2019. The states included Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The 2020 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps show 16 states now have high obesity prevalence, with the newest additions including Delaware, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas.

Adults with obesity are at increased risk for many other serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and poorer mental health. 

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Combined data from 2018 to 2020 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System indicate persisting racial and ethnic disparities in obesity, with the highest number of states reporting obesity prevalence among Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black residents, the analysis found.

The data shows that:

  • Zero states had an obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent among non-Hispanic Asian residents
  • Seven states had obesity prevalence among non-Hispanic white residents
  • Twenty-two states had obesity prevalence among Hispanic residents
  • Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia had an obesity prevalence among non-Hispanic Black residents

The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified health inequities and social risk factors among racial and ethnic minorities, causing the vulnerable populations to suffer worse outcomes from COVID. Research has linked the large disparities to findings that Black and Hispanic adults are more likely to have an underlying health condition and, therefore, have a heightened risk for severe COVID-19 illness.

RELATED: Low vaccination rates among racial/ethnic minorities stress need for COVID-19 vaccine equity

Addressing the increase of obesity throughout the United States will require acknowledgement of existing health disparities and health inequities as well as targeted efforts to solve for SDoH such as poverty and limited access to health care, said the CDC.