The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released its latest mapping of obesity in the United States, based on data gathered by a CDC project known as BRFSS for the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The BRFSS is a massive, continuous telephone survey of adults in U.S. states and territories, and every year it churns out high-quality information on a vast array of public health issues: smoking, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, immunization coverage, cancers, diet…. For anyone interested in health data, it’s a huge resource.
The current dive into the data for 2011 finds, unsurprisingly but depressingly, that a significant proportion of the U.S. population is obese. Not just overweight: obese. From the report:
[O]besity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
Along with the current year’s data, the CDC released a look-back at past years’ reports on obesity in the United States, and the images are striking. They are also, as of this year, out of date, because the agency has changed some methodology — so 2011 and forward can’t be compared with any past years. Before those images sink into the electronic filing cabinet, it’s worth taking a last look at just how and and when we got so fat. I’ve excerpted 1985-2010 below, using five-year intervals.