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Related Measures

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Obesity is the percentage of adults who are estimated to be obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher, according to self-reported height and weight. BMI is equal to weight in pounds divided by height in inches squared and then multiplied by 703. The CDC has a calculator for BMI. The 2013 ranks are based on self-report data from CDC’s 2012 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Because of the 2011 change in BRFSS methodology, obesity prevalence from the 2012 Edition onward cannot be directly compared to estimates from previous years (see Methodology).

Obesity is one of the greatest health threats currently facing the United States. It contributes significantly to a variety of serious diseases including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, as well as poor general health.[1] Obesity is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, causing an estimated 200,000 deaths per year.[2] The direct medical costs for treating obesity and obesity-related health problems are overwhelming. In 2008 it was estimated that $147 billion was spent on obesity or obesity-related health issues.[3] Compared to smoking, obesity is more prevalent; similar to smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, obesity is highly associated with chronic conditions and overall poor physical health. [4] The causes of obesity are complex, including lifestyle and the social and physical environment, as well as genetics and medical history. Poor diet and physical inactivity are major lifestyle contributors to obesity. Since the 1980s, energy intake has steadily climbed and energy expenditure has declined, leading to a growing energy imbalance which closely mirrors the obesity rates.[5] There is growing evidence illustrating the importance of the environment in the obesity epidemic and the need for changes in social and physical environments in order to better facilitate changes in lifestyle.[6] Successful interventions have targeted a wide variety of populations with various strategies, from school-based prevention programs to treatment interventions in aging adults.[7]-[8] While obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing numerous health conditions, weight loss is associated with an attenuation of those risks.[9] The CDC has compiled a list of resources for community level interventions aimed at lowering obesity rates.

In no state is the proportion of obesity in the general population less than 1 in 5. The prevalence of obesity ranges from 20.5 percent of adults in Colorado to more than 34.0 percent of adults in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. The national median of obese adults is 27.6 percent, virtually unchanged from the 2012 Edition prevalence of 27.8 percent. This means that 1 in 4 adults are obese in the United States, and 1 in 3 adults are obese in Alabama, West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. For obesity prevalence by state and age, gender, race/ethnicity, urbanicity, income, or education level, see Health Disparities within States.

Reducing the proportion of adults who are obese is a Healthy People 2020 leading health indicator, with a goal of reducing the proportion of obese adults by 10.0 percent. 


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overweight and obesityhttp://www.cdc.gov/obesity. Updated August 6, 2013. Accessed August, 21, 2013.

[2] Danaei G. The preventable causes of death in the United States: Comparative risk assessment of dietary, lifestyle, and metabolic risk factors. PLoS Medicine. 2009;6(4).

[3] Finkelstein EA, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: Payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Affairs. 2009;28(5): w822-w831.

[4] Sturm R. Does obesity contribute as much to morbidity as poverty or smoking? Public Health. 2001;115(3):229.

[5] Finkelstein EA. Economic causes and consequences of obesity. Annu Rev Public Health. 2005;26(1):239.

[6] Papas MA. The built environment and obesity. Epidemiol Rev. 2007;29(1):129.             

[7] Shaya FT. School-based obesity interventions: A literature review. J Sch Health. 2008;78(4):189.              

[8] McTigue KM. Obesity in older adults: A systematic review of the evidence for diagnosis and treatment. Obesity. 2006;14(9):1485.

[9] Malnick SDH. The medical complications of obesity. QJM. 2006;99(9):565.


IA Obesity (1990-2013) see more
  • Percentage of the population estimated to be obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher.
  • Percentage of adults who are obese, with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher. (2011 BRFSS Methodology)

The measures tracked by America's Health Rankings are those actions that can affect the future health of the population. For a state to improve the health of its population, efforts must focus on these measures, these determinants of health.


State Changes
Over Time
Rank Value Take Action
1990 - Iowa graph 38 12.8 View Actions
1991 - Iowa graph 38 12.8 View Actions
1992 - Iowa graph 42 14.5 View Actions
1993 - Iowa graph 42 14.4 View Actions
1994 - Iowa graph 37 15.4 View Actions
1995 - Iowa graph 34 15.6 View Actions
1996 - Iowa graph 39 17.5 View Actions
1997 - Iowa graph 42 18.7 View Actions
1998 - Iowa graph 43 19.4 View Actions
1999 - Iowa graph 36 19.8 View Actions
2000 - Iowa graph 39 21.5 View Actions
2001 - Iowa graph 33 21.5 View Actions
2002 - Iowa graph 36 22.5 View Actions
2003 - Iowa graph 29 22.9 View Actions
2004 - Iowa graph 33 23.9 View Actions
2005 - Iowa graph 29 23.5 View Actions
2006 - Iowa graph 31 25.4 View Actions
2007 - Iowa graph 29 25.7 View Actions
2008 - Iowa graph 31 27.7 View Actions
2009 - Iowa graph 25 26.7 View Actions
2010 - Iowa graph 32 28.5 View Actions
2011 - Iowa graph 33 29.1 View Actions
2012 - Iowa graph 33 29.0 View Actions
2013 - Iowa graph 39 30.4 View Actions
  • 1990 - 2013
    Annual Report
  • 2013
    Senior Report

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