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Iowa adult obesity rate stable, but still high

DES MOINES – A new report issued by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) shows Iowa’s adult obesity rate remained stable in 2012. The statewide obesity rate of 30.4 percent remains 12th in the nation in which a ranking of 1 indicates the highest rate of obesity. According to “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2013,” adult obesity rates remained level in every state except for Arkansas. Iowa is one of 13 states with adult obesity rates above 30 percent.

“It’s encouraging to see obesity rates stabilizing,” said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director, Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “However, it is clear obesity is still a major health concern in Iowa and it is all the more important to continue and build upon the programs and partnerships focused on reducing obesity.” Many of the Community Transformation Grants IDPH administers focus on healthy eating and reduction of obesity is a goal of other health promotion and chronic disease prevention/management programs within IDPH. Partnerships with the Healthiest State Initiative and Live Healthy Iowa also provide opportunities for Iowans to become healthier through fitness and improved nutrition.

Progress is being made in Iowa’s fight against childhood obesity. A CDC report this month shows Iowa’s obesity rate among low-income preschoolers has fallen nearly one percent from 2008 to 2011 to 14.4 percent. IDPH’s Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) encourages healthy food choices through nutrition education and the food packages with low fat milk, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables. WIC also promotes breastfeeding for new mothers and infants.

The TFAH report uses data collected through the CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. This data shows while 30.4 percent of adult Iowans are obese (a Body Mass Index, or BMI, of 30.0 or higher), another 34.3 percent are overweight (a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9). Iowans are also more likely to be overweight or obese as they age, and men are more likely to be overweight or obese than women. For example, 37 percent of Iowans between the ages of 18 and 24 are overweight or obese, but that percent grows to 72 percent for Iowans ages 45 to 54. Among Iowa men, 71 percent are considered overweight or obese compared to 58 percent of Iowa women.

A report recently released by the American Public Health Association (APHA) concludes previous research has likely underestimated obesity’s impact on U.S. mortality, and warns obesity is at the forefront of concern for public health action. To see the APHA report, visit To see the TFAH obesity report, visit For information on IDPH initiatives to combat obesity, see To calculate your BMI, visit

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