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Hawaii ranks as 5th-least obese in U.S., report says

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    People walk on the street, Thursday, July 7, 2011, in Montpelier, Vt. National statistics show that Vermont is dropping from its perch near the top of national rankings of the least obese states. In 1995, 13.4 percent of Vermonters were considered obese. Now the figure is 23.5. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)

Hawaii has the fifth lowest adult obesity rate in the country, but that doesn’t mean people in the state aren’t getting fatter, according to a national report released today by two public health groups.

Fifteen years ago, Hawaii ranked the least obese state in the nation. Hawaii’s obesity rate has doubled since then to 23.1 percent, the report said. 

The 2011 report by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation ranked Colorado first, with the lowest obesity rate. It said Colorado was the only state with an adult obesity rate under 20 percent. Mississippi’s 34.4 percent rate makes it the most obese state seven years in a row.

“Today, the state with the lowest obesity rate would have had the highest rate in 1995,” said Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health. “There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last 20 years, and we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending.”

Rates of chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure have increased over the past two decades, the report said. In 1995, Hawaii had a diabetes rate of 4.4 percent. Now that rate is 8.3 percent. The state’s hypertension rate 15 years ago was 21.5 percent, which is now 27.8 percent.

The most recent state-by-state data on obesity for youth ages 10 to 17 are from 2007, the report said. According to that data, 11.2 percent of children and adolescents in Hawaii are obese.

The report also examined policy efforts to prevent obesity. Hawaii is one of 16 states that have laws to allow roads to be safely accessed by bicyclists and pedestrians. However, Hawaii is not one of 20 states with school meal standards that are stricter than federal requirements. 

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