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It's the Snowball Fights: Minnesota Has Lowest Rate of Overweight Children in America

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While Minnesota recently lost its #1 ranking to Wisconsin for the state with the best quality of health care nationwide, a new study released Tuesday by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reveals the Gopher State to have the lowest percentage of overweight and obese children in the country.

The study found the average statewide rate of obese and overweight children to be at 31.0 percent nationwide; Minnesota, at 23.1 percent, was the healthiest state (along with Utah) with just shy of one-quarter of its children ages 10 through 17 determined to be obsese or overweight.

The study defined children as obese if their body mass index was at or above the 95th percentile for their age; a child with a body mass index above the 85th percentile was considered overweight.

The new study generally supports a recent analysis conducted by the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. That organization's 2007 National Survey of Children's Health found Minnesota to have tied for the 3rd lowest child obesity rate in the country at 11 percent (that study did not report data on overweight children).

Whether it is diet, exercise, or general hearty living while enduring the state's cold winters, Minnesota has achieved this top ranking in the nation despite lacking many statewide initiatives that have been implemented across the country to combat childhood obesity.

For example, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Minnesota is not among the 31 states nationwide that have implemented a systematic policy approach to address childhood obesity (e.g. in its physical education or school lunch programs). Kaiser also finds that Minnesota is not among the 15 states that have formed a task force or committee to confront childhood obesity. Nor does the Gopher State mandate body mass index screening or require menu labeling in restaurants as has been legislated in a handful of states.

Overall, Upper Midwestern states were ranked among the best in the nation for the lowest rate of overweight and obese children. Minnesota led the way at #50, followed by North Dakota at #45 (25.7 percent), Iowa at #44 (26.5 percent), Wisconsin at #40 (27.9 percent), and South Dakota at #38 (28.4 percent).

Southern states, particularly in the Deep South, had by far the highest rate of overweight and obese children: Mississippi (44.4 percent), Arkansas (37.5 percent), Georgia (37.3 percent), Kentucky (37.1 percent), Tennessee (36.5 percent), Alabama (36.1 percent), and Louisiana (35.9 percent) had the worst ratings.

Rate of Overweight and Obese Children by State

Rank
State
Percent
1
Mississippi
44.4
2
Arkansas
37.5
3
Georgia
37.3
4
Kentucky
37.1
5
Tennessee
36.5
6
Alabama
36.1
7
Louisiana
35.9
8
West Virginia
35.5
9
District of Columbia
35.4
10
Illinois
34.9
11
Nevada
34.2
12
Alaska
33.9
13
South Carolina
33.7
14
North Carolina
33.5
15
Ohio
33.3
16
Delaware
33.2
17
Florida
33.1
18
New York
32.9
19
New Mexico
32.7
20
Texas
32.2
21
Nebraska
31.5
22
Kansas
31.1
23
Missouri
31.0
23
New Jersey
31.0
23
Virginia
31.0
26
Arizona
30.6
26
Michigan
30.6
28
California
30.5
29
Rhode Island
30.1
30
Massachusetts
30.0
31
Indiana
29.9
32
Pennsylvania
29.7
33
Oklahoma
29.5
33
Washington
29.5
35
New Hampshire
29.4
36
Maryland
28.8
37
Hawaii
28.5
38
South Dakota
28.4
39
Maine
28.2
40
Wisconsin
27.9
41
Idaho
27.5
42
Colorado
27.2
43
Vermont
26.7
44
Iowa
26.5
45
Connecticut
25.7
45
North Dakota
25.7
45
Wyoming
25.7
48
Montana
25.6
49
Oregon
24.3
50
Utah
23.1
50
Minnesota
23.1
Source: Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rankings are based on the National Survey of Children's Health, a phone survey of parents with children ages 10-17 conducted in 2007 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Despite Minnesota's best-in-the-nation rating for children, the news was good, but not great, regarding the state's ranking for the obesity rate of adults.

Minnesota ranked 31st in the nation for the highest adult obesity rate, as calculated by a body mass index of 30 or higher. Just over a quarter of Minnesota adults were found to be obese (25.3 percent).

That was good enough for best in the Upper Midwest, however, ahead of Wisconsin (#26, 26.0 percent), Iowa and North Dakota (tied for #22, 26.7 percent), and South Dakota (#20, 26.9 percent).

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5 Comments


  • Hmmm, I guess I'm not understanding the math here. You'll probably correct and embarrass me, but didn't you say that the study defines a child to be obese if he or she is in the 95th percentile as far as BMI goes? In which case, by definition, 5% of children nationwide are obese, right? So why would there have to be a study to determine how many children are obese? But you say "The study found the average statewide rate of obese and overweight children to be at 31.0 percent nationwide." If we read this literally, then isn't it contradicting the very definition of obese? Also, the phrase "obese and overweight" is confusing as "overweight" is a subset of "obese" (as defined in the study), and so "obese and overweight" = "obese", right? In your table of stats you also write "obese and overweight" but earlier you say "Minnesota, at 23.1 percent, was the healthiest state (along with Utah) with just shy of one-quarter of its children ages 10 through 17 determined to be obsese or overweight." Notice the "or" at the end. Which one is it? Also, since "overweight" is a subset of "obese" wouldn't "overweight or obese" = "overweight"? If we are talking about overweight, than you say that the study defines only 15% of children to be overweight ("a child with a body mass index above the 85th percentile was considered overweight.") I just can't see where all of these higher percentages are coming from.

    I'm sure I am reading something wrong, or I am being too dumb to make the obvious assumptions.

  • Is it because current obesity rates are being defined by old information? obesity in children is defined as BMI greater than 95th percentile, top 5 %, but these percentiles are based on info. from 1963 to 1994. not reflecting the the recent increases in childhood obesity. I just read something about this online (could be wrong, wikipedia and other sources). So these charts need to updated and obesity in children redefined.

  • You raise some good points and some contradictions about the study's methodology and definition of terms.

    1. Yes, obese is a subset of overweight. Overweight = 85th percentile, obese = 95th percentile. So, everyone who is obese is inherently overweight, but not everyone who is overweight is inherently obese. You are correct that the definition provided by the study (“Children with a body mass index, a calculation based on weight and height ratios, at or above the 95th percentile for their age are considered obese and children at or above the 85th percentile are considered overweight”) does not make sense with the percentages listed in the table (which are percentages, I believe, based on a reference (static) body mass index). However, the ‘rate’ listed for each state does purport to reflect the actual percent that are obese and overweight in each state.

    > "The study found the average statewide rate of obese and
    > overweight children to be at 31.0 percent nationwide."

    2. To clarify -- this isn’t the national average, but the average for each of the individual 50 states (in other words, this does not weight each state for its proportional population of children between 10 and 17).

  • I like the rolling discussion, but one of the deciding factors is that if the parents are obese or overweight their kids probably will follow eating the same meal plans.

    As well, have you seen what they are feeding your children for lunch at school?

    The schools are so over crowed for high school, the day hours cut back because of budget cuts, leaving 30 minutes for lunch, and it takes that long to stand in line.

    Kids grab junk out of the vending machines because it is fast, cheap, and easy....

    That reminds me of ole punch line, but none the less it's all true.
    Hunter

  • I agree with Hunter, the health and weight of the parents have a huge impact on their children. Especially the mother.
    I also think that it's high time that parents took more responsibility for the health, especially the diet, of their children.
    Poor nutrition is the cause of 80% of all disease. Why would you want to set your child up for disease?

    And yes, school lunches may be out of our hands but that just means we need to take responsibility by demanding better food in schools.
    The current situation is unacceptable and it is up to us to change it.

  • Leave a comment


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