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More Obesity, Diabetes in South, Appalachia

CDC Hopes New Data Will Help Target Funds for Obesity and Diabetes

By Bill Hendrick
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

Nov. 19. 2009 -- The CDC says the prevalence of obesity and diabetes in the U.S. is much higher in the South and Appalachian region than in most areas of the West and Northeast.

In its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for Nov. 20, the CDC estimates obesity and diabetes prevalence for all 3,141 counties in the U.S. and found distinct geographic patterns for both conditions.

Besides the South, high prevalence for obesity and diabetes was found in the Appalachian region and some tribal lands in the West and Northern Plains.

Eighty-one percent of counties in the Appalachian region that includes Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia have the highest rates of diabetes and obesity. So do 77% of the counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

"Diabetes is costly in human and economic terms, and it's urgent that we take action to prevent and control this serious disease," Ann Albright, MD, director of CDC's Division of Diabetes Translation, says in a news release. "The study shows strong regional patterns of diabetes and can help focus prevention efforts where they are most needed."

The agency says obesity costs the nation some $147 billion in medical costs and estimates the price tag for diabetes at $116 billion.

About 24 million people have diabetes, including 5.7 million who haven't been diagnosed.

The estimates come from CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which uses self-reported data from state-based adult telephone surveys, and U.S. census data.

William H. Dietz, MD, director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, says in the news release that the small-area estimates should help communities prevent and reduce obesity of their citizens.

The CDC data also show:

Obesity prevalence nationwide ranged from 12.4% to 43.7%.

Among counties in Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina, 73% were in the top quintile for prevalence of diabetes.

Highest obesity prevalence was found in Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In those states, 70% of counties had obesity prevalence of 30.9% or greater.

Among counties in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina, 77% were in the two top quintiles for both diabetes and obesity prevalence.

Among counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia, the percentage was 81% for both conditions.

Counties With High Rates of Obesity and Diabetes

The CDC says counties on the "high end" for obesity prevalence were:

  • Dallas County, Ala. (41.6%)
  • Greene County, Ala. (43.7%)
  • Holmes County, Miss. (42.6%)
  • Humphreys County, Miss. (41.9%)
  • Jefferson County, Miss. (41.3%)

Those on the low end for prevalence of obesity were:

  • Eagle County, Colo. (13%)
  • Boulder County, Colo. (12.4%)
  • Routt County, Colo. (12.8%)
  • Sante Fe County, N.M. (12.5%)
  • Summit County, Colo. (12.7%)
  • Summit County, Utah 12.7%)

Counties on the high end for prevalence of diabetes were:

  • Greene County, Ala. (15.3%)
  • Holmes County, Miss. (15.0%)
  • Jefferson County, Miss. (14.9%)
  • Lowndes County, Ala. (15.2%)
  • Perry County, Ala. (15.2%)

Counties on the low end for diabetes prevalence were:

  • Boulder County, Colo. (3.9%)
  • Gallatin County, Mont. (4.2%)
  • Los Alamos County, N.M. (4.3%)
  • Santa Fe County, N.M. (3.7%)
  • Summit County, Utah. (4.2%)

The CDC says the percentage of U.S. adults who are obese was 26.1% in 2008, and that nearly 8% of the population has diabetes. It says both percentages are about the same or slightly higher than they were last year.

The CDC says the county-by-county data can lead to allocation of funds to help areas hardest hit by diabetes and obesity, which are associated with heart disease, stroke, and some cancers, as well as kidney disease, blindness, and lower limb amputation.

SOURCES: News release, CDC.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Nov. 20, 2009; vol 58.

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