Mountain West states have some of the lowest rates of youth obesity in the country, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Utah's rate of 8.7% was found to be the lowest in the country, while Colorado and Montana, with rates of 10.7% and 10.8%, respectively, were also among the six states with obesity rates statistically significantly lower than the national average of 15.3%.
The "State of Childhood Obesity" report, based on National Survey of Children's Health data, calculates rates for youth ages 10 to 17.
“We know that if we can get kids to a healthy weight by kindergarten, the likelihood that they retain that healthy weight trajectory through adolescence and early adulthood is much higher,” said Jamie Bussel, a senior program officer with the philanthropic foundation that focuses on health.
Bussel says black and Hispanic children experience obesity at higher rates than their white and Asian counterparts. Other data show it’s also more prevalent in lower-income communities.
“Obesity is really the canary in the coal mine,” Bussel said. “It is a symptom of many other ills, like income equality, a fragile safety net, scarcity of affordable housing [and] inadequate transportation.”
Only three states in the report had rates less than 10 percent: Utah, Minnesota and Alaska.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.