(WAFF) - Obesity rates in the U.S. are at historic highs, according to the most recent report released by Trust for America’s Health (TFAH).
“The report that we put out today is our 16th annual report on obesity, and the rates are the highest level they have ever been,” says President and CEO of TFAH John Auerbach. “About 31 percent of adult Americans have obesity.”
Alabama’s rate was one of the most shocking. With a rate of 36.2 percent, the state ranked 6th in the country for highest obesity rate and was one of only nine states to have a rate above 35 percent.
“The rates in Alabama are unusually high, even compared to the national rates,” says Auerbach.
Part of the problem – too much screen time.
“Children are less likely to be playing actively outdoors. In our schools, there’s less likely to be phys ed or recess during the day,” he says.
Changes to the traditional family dynamic have also played a role.
“There isn’t someone in the traditional way there used to be in many families who was able to spend time doing the shopping and the cooking. Parents are very stressed about that, and that sometimes leads to buying convenience foods or those that are easy to prepare at the end of the day,” says Auerbach.
To address this issue, Auerbach says it’s not only going to take an individual commitment but a national commitment as well.
“We need all sectors to get to the table with policymakers and talk through how to change the conditions so that it becomes natural for people to have access to healthy foods and to exercise.”
One policy he encourages Alabama to consider is a “Complete Streets” policy, meaning that when designing downtown areas and planning transportation systems, leaders also aim to make the areas walkable and bikeable. He also encourages people to look at their school systems to see if they are offering exercise during the school day and serving healthy foods to students.
With many health complications being associated with obesity, such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illness, Auerbach says the results found from this study cannot be ignored.
“Obesity is a serious health concern, and when we continue to see the rates rise, we have to take it very seriously.”