Press Room

ASTHO Encourages Immediate Action to Address the Rising Obesity Rates in the Wake of COVID-19

ARLINGTON, VA (Sept. 15, 2021)—Obesity rates in the U.S. are at an all-time high, according to newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH). CDC’s 2020 Adult Obesity Prevalence Maps and TFAH’s State of Obesity 2021: Better Policies for a Healthier America indicate that 16 states now have adult obesity rates at or above 35 percent, up from 12 states in 2019 and 9 states in 2018. Combined CDC data from 2018-2020 show notable adult racial and ethnic disparities. The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted eating habits, stress levels, physical activity, food insecurity, and has exacerbated the decades-long pattern of obesity in the U.S.

"Our attention on COVID-19 diverted us from focusing on chronic disease prevention, which we need to get back to," says Marcus Plescia, M.D., chief medical officer at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). "We must get back on track to assure that we have the policies, systems and environments in place to support equitable access to physical activity opportunities and nutrition security for all. Obesity is not only a risk factor for chronic disease, it impacts every aspect of public health, and it leads to poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19. State and territorial health departments need to be equipped with adequate resources to properly address the issue and implement comprehensive obesity control interventions."

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ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories and freely associated states, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to ensuring excellence in public health practice.