Over the last 50 years, the adult obesity rate has more than doubled in the United States. Health officials declared obesity an epidemic in 1999, and recent studies estimate that the total health care costs for diseases and medical conditions associated with obesity range from $147 billion to $210 billion per year.
Though the national obesity rate continues to rise, the problem is less acute in some parts of the country. The share of obese adults ranges from 21.3% in Colorado to 35.1% in West Virginia and is more than four times as high in the most obese county than in the least. Obesity rates are highly associated with factors such as exercise and income, and vary accordingly. These disparities in obesity prevalence contribute to disparities in health outcomes such as diabetes, hypertension, and premature mortality.
To determine the least obese county in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed reviewed the percentage of obese adults — defined as having a body mass index of at least 30.0 — in 2013 with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Body mass index is a screening tool for determining weight status based on a person’s weight and height. A 5-feet-9-inch tall person weighing 203 pounds or more would be considered obese.
In some of the least healthy states, even residents of the healthiest county are worse off than the average American by a number of health metrics. In Arkansas, for example, 34.6% of adults are obese, the third largest share of any state. While the obesity rate in Arkansas County of 30.1% is the lowest in the state, it is far above of the 28.9% national obesity rate.