Three in 10 Georgia adults are obese, giving the state the 19th-highest rate in the nation, a recently released report said.
Between 2014 and 2015, adult obesity rates decreased in four states (Minnesota, Montana, New York and Ohio), increased in two (Kansas and Kentucky) and remained stable in the rest, according to the report from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This marks the first time in a decade that any states experienced decreases.
The Georgia adult obesity level of 30.7 percent in 2015 remained basically flat from the previous year, according to the State of Obesity report.
"These new data suggest that we are making some progress, but there's more yet to do," Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO for the Trust for America's Health, said in a statement. "Improving nutrition and increasing activity in early childhood, making healthy choices easier in people's daily lives and targeting the startling inequities are all key approaches we need to ramp up."
The report, released last week, also says Georgia is among 18 states that saw a decline in obesity rates among 2- to 4-year-olds from low-income families between 2008 and 2011. Over that period, Georgia's rate fell from 14.8 percent to 13.2 percent, a statistically significant decrease, according to the CDC analysis.
In 2015, Louisiana had the highest adult obesity rate at 36.2 percent, while Colorado had the lowest at 20.2 percent.
The report showed the significant impact of obesity in the South. Nine of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the region.
Obesity is a risk factor for both diabetes and hypertension.
Ten of the 12 states with the highest rates of diabetes are in the South. Georgia's diabetes rate is 11.3 percent, 15th highest. The state has the ninth-highest rate of hypertension at 36.2 percent.
Dr. Jacqueline DuBose of Augusta University Family Medicine said Tuesday that besides a third of adults being obese, another third are overweight.
"It's disturbing when you think of the long-term impact of that," she told GHN.
"I think it would be hard to overestimate the impact of obesity on health,'' she said, citing osteoarthritis and sleep apnea as two other health problems linked to obesity.
The South's high obesity rates are not surprising, she said.
"It's our culture. It's what we ea," DuBose said. "So much of our interactions are built around meals. It will take some time to turn that corner."
While there is more public awareness of the problem, DuBose said she thinks it may take years for behaviors to change, citing the long battle to reduce smoking rates.
"It's about making smart choices about food and getting active and staying active,'' she said.
The Georgia Department of Public Health, responding to the report, noted that the state has shown progress in reducing childhood obesity.
Aided by Georgia Shape, Gov. Nathan Deal's initiative to reduce child obesity, and Power Up for 30, a school program to promote student physical activity, the percentage of Georgia students who have achieved healthy BMI has risen from 58.5 percent in 2012 to 60.3 percent in 2015, said Nancy Nydam, a Public Health spokeswoman.
"There is still significant work to do to reduce adult obesity,'' Nydam said. "Obesity and overweight contribute to diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which are among the leading causes of early death in Georgia."
The report also found:
The number of high school students who drink one soft drink or more a day has dropped by nearly 40 percent since 2007, to around 1 in 5 (20.4 percent) in 2015.
The number of high school students who report playing video or computer games three or more hours a day has increased more than 88 percent since 2003 (from 22.1 to 41.7 percent). There was no data for Georgia on this indicator.
More than 15 million U.S. children - including 15.7 percent in Georgia - live in "food-insecure" households, having limited access to adequate nutrition due to the cost of food, distance from sources of healthy food or other reasons.