Idaho Most Obese State In The West, Rate Continues To Climb

Sep 6, 2014

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

New figures on weight show Idaho stands out among Western states -- but not in the way public health officials would like. 

Idaho was the most obese state west of the Dakotas and one of only six states nationwide where adult obesity rose between 2012 and 2013.

Idaho jumped nine places on the annual ranking by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report shows nearly 30 percent of adults in Idaho are obese.

Idaho is a fairly rural state. You might think that would help – with lots of chances to head outside. But Idaho’s top expert in the matter, Physical Activity and Nutrition Program Manager Angie Gribble, said it doesn’t.

“We have few population centers, which are typically the areas where you have more access to physical activity opportunities such as established parks and gym facilities and you have sports leagues, where in rural areas, you may not have access to those things,” she said.

Gribble said the state is working with businesses and schools to promote exercise and discourage junk food, and it’s helping small towns take advantage of local recreation spots.

Nationwide, obesity rates are leveling off. Oregon's even declined between 2012 and 2013 to 26.5 percent. The new report shows Washington’s remained statistically unchanged at 27 percent.

The West tends to be less obese than the rest of the country. In fact, two of Idaho’s neighbors -- Utah and Montana -- made the Top 10 list for least obese states.

Still, public health officials say even today's lowest rates are too high.

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