A report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows the number of overweight Iowans has increased. Iowa Department of Health community health consultant, Dennis Haney, says the survey determines if someone is obese based on what’s called the “body mass index” or B-M-I.

Haney says 27.9% of the population is considered obese, and that number has slowly been increasing over the last decade, so that now nearly 3-out-of 10 Iowans are considered obese. Haney says none of the states met the federal goal to have an obesity rate of 15%.

“Iowa like with most issues, ranks right in the middle, and so we are 20th in the nation right now for our obesity rates,” Haney says. “Certainly across the nation it definitely is an issue, in fact now we have nine states that have an obesity rate of above 30-percent, which is incredibly alarming.”

Haney says there are many factors involved in the increasing size of Americans and Iowans, including the engineering out of exercise from our daily routine. “For example, most of us as children, if we lived in town, either rode bikes are walked to school, whereas most school children today are driven to school,” Haney says. He says there’s also been a change in what he calls “food availability.”

Haney says for example, in low-income areas of large cities, or in many rural environments by Iowa, access to grocery stores and fresh fruit and vegetables is really limited. He says as that access to fruit and vegetables goes down, people are more likely to eat less nutritional food that is higher in calories and higher in fat. Haney says the study confirms what state health officials have known, and there are efforts underway to improve the situation.

Haney says the state has had a C.D.C. funded initiative for about the last five years called “Iowans Fit for Life.” The program includes a partnership with individuals across the state and a state plan in which they work on solutions to cutting obesity.

The plan includes suggestions to make communities more “walkable;” tools to improve the healthfulness of restaurant menus, grocery store offerings, and vending machine options; a worksite wellness resource designed for small employers; and a school and community nutrition and physical activity intervention.

For information about Iowans Fit for Life, visit: www.idph.state.ia.us/iowansfitforlife. For more information about the C.D.C. report, visit: www.cdc.gov/obesity.