Indiana is among the worst states in the country for childhood obesity, according to newly released data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. However, experts say the situation is stabilizing.
Indiana ranks 13th in the country for obesity rates among children ages 10 to 17. This means about 1 in 6 Hoosier children in this age range are obese. But Monica Hobbs Vinluan, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, says there is good news for Indiana.
"In Indiana the obesity rate has actually maintained pretty steady over the last few years," Vinluan says. "So that's, surprisingly enough, that's actually good news, because in some states they've actually had increased rates."
Indiana children on WIC – a government supplemental nutrition program – had decreasing rates of obesity. These children are between the ages of 2- and 4-years-old. Vinluan says since obesity interventions are targeted towards young people, it could take decades to see results.
"We're hopeful over decades more time, that as we're addressing our youngest age and these youngest children turn into high schoolers and then turn into adults. That's how we're hoping to actually reverse this trend across the country," Vinluan says.
Rates of adult obesity in Indiana continue to rise – 34 percent of Hoosier adults are obese. The state also ranks among the worst for obesity-related health outcomes such as diabetes and hypertension.
Vinluan says there's debate over how obesity rates should be tackled by states, but says she thinks the solution will include all stakeholders.
"Is it up to an individual to just eat healthier? And to get more physical activity, like it's on the individual to solve this problem?" Vinluan says. "Or is it on sort of like community decision makers and policyholder stakeholders at large?"
Neighboring Midwestern states haven't fared much better. Kentucky ranks third in the country for the highest childhood obesity rates. Ohio and Michigan also fall within the top 10.