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How Pennsylvania Ranks for Obesity

September 25, 2023

Obesity is becoming an increasingly more prominent public health challenge, according to new data from the CDC.

Adult obesity rates were above 35 percent in nearly half of U.S. states, according to new data maps released last week. The new maps “highlight the need for population-based interventions to ensure that all people have access to healthy foods, safe places for physical activity, stigma-free obesity prevention and treatment programs, and evidence-based health care services such as medication and surgery,” the CDC said.

“Our updated maps send a clear message that additional support for obesity prevention and treatment is an urgent priority,” said Karen Hacker, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. "Obesity is a disease caused by many factors, including eating patterns, physical activity levels, sleep routines, genetics, and certain medications. This means that there is no one size fits all approach."

Here's what you need to know:

  • In Pennsylvania:  The commonwealth’s prevalence for adult obesity was 33.4 percent in 2021, ranking the state in the middle of the pack.
  • Highest rates:  Oklahoma, West Verginia, and Louisiana all had adult obesity prevalence above 40 percent.
  • Lowest rates:  Colorado (25%), Hawaii (25.9%), and Vermont (26.8%) were the states with the lowest adult obesity prevalence.
  • Demographic data:  Black adults had obesity rates above 35 percent in 38 states. The same obesity rates were recorded for Latino adults in 32 states. White adults had obesity rates above 35 percent in 14 states.
  • Why it matters:  Adults with obesity are at increased risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, severe outcomes from COVID-19, and poor mental health, the CDC notes.

“However, we know the key strategies that work include addressing the underlying social determinants of health such as access to healthcare, healthy and affordable food, and safe places for physical activity,” Hacker said.

Across Pennsylvania, hospitals and health systems are working to improve the health of their patients, their employees, and the communities they serve. Learn more about Pennsylvania’s population health needs.

The CDC’s updated obesity prevalence maps are available online.