Report: Connecticut one of the least obese states, but still needs improvement

Connecticut is one of the nation’s least obese states, but that’s no reason to celebrate, according to a report released Thursday.

“Today, the state with the lowest adult obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America’s Health, which along with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation produces the annual report “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future.” “There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending.”

At 21.8 percent, Connecticut’s adult obesity rate is the third-lowest in the country, but the proportion of adults in the state who are overweight or obese (59.8 percent), or who have diabetes (6.9 percent) or hypertension (25.7 percent) has grown since 1995. Obesity rates are also higher for minorities in Connecticut; while 20.8 percent of whites in the state are obese, 29 percent of Latinos and 39.5 percent of blacks are, according to the report.

Among Connecticut kids aged 10 to 17, one in eight was considered obese in 2007, the last year for which state-by-state data is available.

The report highlights several efforts to target obesity that states have taken, including Connecticut, such as holding school meals to higher standards than the federal government requires, limiting the sale of food and drinks sold outside formal meal programs in schools, and having “complete street” laws for roads that can be used safely by bicyclists, pedestrians, drivers and public transit.

It also notes that 21 states have legislation requiring children and adolescents to have body mass index screenings or other weight-related assessments. Connecticut does not.

The report also includes several recommendations for federal policies to address obesity, including funding obesity prevention, issuing a federal rule on regulations for food served and sold in schools, restoring cuts made to programs that provide nutrition assistance and improve nutrition in child care settings, and implementing the National Physical Activity Plan, which includes grassroots advocacy, public education and centers for policy development and research.