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CDC: One-third of Americans in rural counties are obese

Over one-third (34.2 percent) of adults living in America’s rural counties are obese, according to the latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Obesity prevalence was significantly higher among adults in the nation’s rural counties than those in metropolitan counties, where 28.7 percent of adults had a body-mass index of 30 or above. This trend, seen across all US Census regions, was most pronounced in the South, where the absolute difference was 5.6 percent, and the Northeast (5.4 percent). 

The data was collected as part of the state-level 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System by means of a state-based random-digit-dialed telephone survey of Americans over 18 years of age. It follows a previous national survey which identified a trend of higher obesity prevalence in rural counties but did not examine difference by state.

Residents of Colorado’s non-metropolitan (rural) counties had the lowest prevalence of obesity, with an obesity rate of just over one in five people. The highest level was found in Louisiana, where nearly four in ten adults living in rural counties were obese. The only state in which obesity was higher in metropolitan counties was Wyoming. 

Obesity is associated with several chronic health conditions and ailments, including type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis and certain forms of cancer. To be categorized as obese, a person’s body-mass index (BMI) has to be over 30. A report published last year by the National Center for Health Statistics found nearly four out of ten American adults and two in ten young people are obese.

Lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating a healthier diet, are generally recommended as the most effective ways to counter obesity, but in some cases, physicians may prescribe medication to aid weight loss. Among the drug classes sometimes administered to assist with weight loss are centrally-acting antiobesity products, such as Adipex-P (phentermine) or diethylpropion, and other antiobesity products, for example, Contrave (bupropion, naltrexone) and Saxenda (liraglutide).

According to the latest State of Obesity in America report by the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood  Johnson Foundation, nine out of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and the ten states with the highest hypertension rates are also in this region. A public opinion survey conducted by the Greenberg, Quinlan, Rosner Research and Bellweather Research groups revealed American voters rated obesity as the top health concern in the country.