A new report finds more than one in every three adult Iowans is obese, ranking Iowa in the bottom tier of states.

Rhea Farberman, director of policy research at Trust for America’s Health, says the organization’s annual report tracks obesity rates by age, race or ethnicity, and state of residence. “You’re 11th worst in the nation. Your obesity rate is at 36.4% — that’s adults,” Farberman says. “The good news is that you did not increase from last year, flat from last year, despite the hardships of the pandemic and that probably has to do with the food insecurity programs that were put in place during the pandemic.”

Iowa’s childhood obesity rate, for children ages ten to 17, is now at 17%, which is a slight increase from a year ago. The report says obesity is estimated to increase U.S. healthcare spending by 170-billion dollars every year. “Obesity is associated with heart disease, with increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, for some cancers,” Farberman says. “So if you have obesity, you’re certainly at risk for other health issues. The goal of our report is to advance those policies that will allow people to make the healthy food choice, accessible and affordable in every community.”

Farberman says there’s a link between obesity rates and food insecurity. She says families that don’t have the money to provide enough food for themselves often turn to cheaper foods that are higher in calories and lower in nutritional value. Obesity rates have risen sharply nationwide over the past decade and Farberman says obesity prevention programs need to be launched or expanded in more communities in Iowa and nationwide.

“Things like nutrition support programs, WIC and programs like that work,” Farberman says. “We see data that shows that if a family can afford nutritious food, that family has less trouble with obesity, so we need to invest in those types of programs, free school meals for every student to make sure that kids are eating nutritious foods.”

Iowa is among 19 states with adult obesity rates over 35%, what she describes as crisis-level. See the full report, “State of Obesity 2022: Better Policies for a Healthier America,” at the Trust for America’s Health website.