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May 5th, 2010
11:29 AM ET

Highest percentage of obese children in Mississippi

By Ashley Fantz
CNN.com Writer Producer

Childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, with Mississippi being home to the fattest kids, according to a new study.

Dr. Gopal K. Singh of the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration examined state-by-state changes between 2003 and 2007 in rates of people who are overweight and obese, using data from the National Survey of Children's Health, a database of 6,700 children ages 10 to 17 surveyed in 2003 and more than 44,000 children surveyed in 2007. The findings were published this week in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

He and his team found that the state with the highest percentage of obese children – 22 percent - was Mississippi. Compare that with the state with the fewest obese children, Oregon, with 9.6 percent. Oregon was also the only state that had substantial declines in the number of obese and overweight children between 2003 and 2007. About 2,000 kids were surveyed in every state.

“Kids in Oregon and other Western states like Wyoming tend to have children who are more active, who watch television less and have better access to healthy foods,” Singh told CNN. “There are a few reasons for that difference but we saw income levels that were much lower in Southern states, and a greater culture of sedentary behavior in the Southern regions of the country.”

The study notes the clinical difference between being overweight and “obese.” A person is overweight if his or her weight is above a healthy level, depending on height. Adult obesity is measured by taking someone’s BMI, or Body Mass Index, which compares a person’s weight and height. In children BMI is measured differently. Childhood BMI takes into account gender and age.

This doesn’t mean better news for Mississippi where 44.5 percent of young people qualify as overweight, the study found. The least number of overweight children live in Utah, researchers found.

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soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. Snail

    Learning to eat and cook mostly healthy foods and to permanently give up most junk food is a tough journey. There are many steps involved, and it's not easy. I think one problem is that people have no idea how to cook healthy food that tastes good, and even if they do, they would rather spend their free time doing something else. There are no easy answers in our "fast-food, summer BBQ, celebrate-with-cake" culture. And everyone in the entire family has to be "on board" with making the changes permanent. Too bad children have to suffer from their parents' lack of education on healthy eating and lifestyle, though!

    May 5, 2010 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Adam

    Im tired of hearing about how "economically disadvantaged" people are at "higher risk" for obesity.

    1) It doesn't cost a nickle to put on sneakers and go for a run

    2) Obesity is a choice. Its not like getting struck by lightning or catching a cold.

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    May 5, 2010 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Donald Thomas

    Aloha,
    Economically disadvantaged usually also means educationally disadvantaged. And that education is not just in the schools but, for many that would come under that heading, also their churches. Churches are the most logical place for poor people to learn healthy life style, yet, these churches are NOT doing enough to educate their flock.A church is a 501 C3 non profit. They could have reps from the Diabetes Assoc,Heart Assoc and Cancer Society come in to give on going classes in healthy cooking and other methods of prevention. If you can't learn how to have a healthy life style in church, where can you learn it?Very sad!

    May 6, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Amy

    First of all:
    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/41672.php

    your statement reveals about the same level of empathy as one who claims that being poor is a choice...that people who are poor are too lazy to go out and get a job.

    It is true that most Americans exercise too little and eat too much, but it is also true that money plays a huge role in this obesity epidemic. Healthy food is not only a great deal more expensive to buy and more time consuming to prepare than fast food, but economically disadvantaged people often do not have the education or resources to know how to make the healthiest decision. Some may have to work all day and take care of their children at night just to survive, never mind having the time (and money for proper sneakers!) to go out for a run. We need to stop casting blame on the "choice" that people supposedly make to be obese and instead figure out how we might actually be able to get to the root of the problem: affordable, fresh food, better education, affordable healthcare, and spaces for people to get outside and move around with their children seems like a good place to start.

    Every time you don't wash your hands after you sneeze or touch something that other sick people have been handling, you are making a choice to get a cold. It just doesn't always happen.

    May 6, 2010 at 15:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Tatiana @ Maddie's Adventures

    It is sad to me that there are so many children truly overweight and obese when there are so many practical and easy steps we can take. Here is a list of simple ways to help obese toddlers.

    September 16, 2010 at 19:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Jorge

    Not news, the highest percentage of obese everybody is in Mississippi. I've been there, folks just don't care about their health, they will gobble all that country-fried comfort food and barbeque beast like there's no tomorrow and chase it with a couple of Marlboros, they don't call the South the stroke belt for nothing.

    September 21, 2010 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.