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September 3, 2013

Originally published July 25, 2011

As soon as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released obesity rates for states in 2010, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) caught the attention of the general public and news affiliates as the Dekapartment outlined its strategies to wage war on the obesity problem across the state. As a brand-new department, obesity is one of the top priorities as Georgia’s rate has climbed to 30.4 percent, up from 27.7 percent in 2009.

Kimberly C. Redding, MD, MPH, Director of the Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Programs, and other DPH obesity experts responded to interview requests from media outlets across the state, outlining Georgia’s prevention and awareness strategies to address the state’s mounting obesity rate.

“Georgia is no different than other states facing an obesity problem. We know the answer lies in a multi-faceted approach that brings government, agencies and other partners together for a prescription of unprecedented cooperation,” said Dr. Redding. Experts agree that obesity is rooted in social norms and behaviors, and is often a result of the cultural environment.

The CDC’s data come from the most recent Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a state-based phone survey that collects health information from approximately 400,000 adults aged 18 and over.  The 2010 BRFSS data confirm that no state met the nation’s Healthy People 2010 goal to lower obesity prevalence to 15 percent within the past decade.

The number of states with an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or more has increased to thirteen in 2010, compared to no states with that level in 2000. According to the CDC, No state reported an obesity prevalence lower than 20 percent in 2010.

Since becoming a stand-alone agency on July 1, DPH has made it a priority to tackle Georgia’s high obesity rate, especially among children and youth. DPH’s initiatives include:

  • Partnership with the Governor’s Office, Georgia Department of Education (DOE) and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) to implement the Georgia SHAPE Act (Georgia Student Health and Physical Education Act), a public-private partnership to promote childhood fitness and build a culture of wellness among the state’s youth
  • Selected by Governor Nathan Deal as the lead agency responsible for his campaign to reduce obesity across the state
  • Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity (DNPAO) funded by CDC in Georgia to address the problems of obesity and other chronic diseases through statewide efforts with multiple partners. DNPAO’s primary focus is to create policy and environmental changes to increase: physical activity, consumption of fruits and vegetables, and breastfeeding; and to decrease: television viewing, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, and consumption of high-energy dense foods (high calorie/low nutrient foods).  

Additionally, the federal government is working with states to reduce and prevent obesity through initiatives such as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign to address childhood obesity.

“Obesity is a complex issue, and it will take every element of society working together to reverse the epidemic,” said William Dietz, MD, PhD, Director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity.  “Reducing the rates of obesity and its related complications will require an intensive and sustained effort over many years, focused on creating environments that make healthy living easier.  At stake is the health and well-being of current generations, as well as those to come.”

The nine states in 2009 that had an obesity prevalence of 30 percent or more are: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. In 2010, four more states had an obesity rate of 30 percent or more, including Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina and Texas. 

The Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a CDC-supported surveillance system, collects state-level public health data and provides a way for states to monitor progress toward national and state health goals.  To assess obesity prevalence, phone survey respondents were asked to provide their height and weight, which was used to calculate their body mass index (BMI).  An adult is considered obese if he or she has a BMI of 30 or above.  For example, a 5-foot-4 woman who weighs 174 pounds or more, or a 5-foot-10 man who weighs 209 pounds or more both have a BMI of 30 or more so are considered obese.

You can calculate your own BMI using the CDC’s Adult BMI Calculator here:http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html.