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Kentucky — the land of barbecue, bacon, biscuits and burgers — is once again ranked among the top 10 states for adult obesity.

With 34.3 percent of Kentucky adults being obese in 2017, Kentucky ranks No. 8 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the nationwide snapshot, The State of Obesity, released Wednesday.

The 15th annual report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) found that Kentucky’s adult obesity rate was about the same as in the prior year’s report when the state earned a 7th-place ranking at 34.2 percent.

Credit: The State of Obesity, 2018. The ranking is based on 2017 rates of adult obesity nationwide.

Things could be worse, though. West Virginia topped the most recent list with an adult obesity rate of 38.1 percent, followed by Mississippi at 37.3 percent. Indiana ranked 12th with a rate of 33.6 percent.

According to a news release from the Trust and RWJF, no state had a significant improvement in its adult obesity rate, and seven had rates at or above 35 percent.

“Newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System show that states with high adult obesity rates are increasing with no less than one in five adults having obesity in every state,” the release noted.

In addition to Kentucky adults, older youths also are having trouble controlling their weight. The commonwealth has the third-highest obesity rate (out of 43 states) for high school students. It has risen to 20.2 in 2017 from 18.5 in 2015.

Ben Chandler, president and chief executive of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, bemoaned Kentucky’s obesity problems.

“The obesity rate in the commonwealth has been on a dangerous trajectory for nearly two decades, tracking a national trend that is costing the state billions in health care and lost productivity, and jeopardizing the health of 1.1 million Kentucky adults every year,” Chandler said in a news release.

The foundation is working with six communities through grants aimed at preventing obesity in childhood. “What we’ve learned through these grants is that it takes a coalition of partners committed to systemwide changes that make better nutrition and increased physical activity easier and more likely for everyone,” Chandler said. “It’s hard work and it takes long-term commitment, but it’s imperative to getting Kentucky back on track to better health.”

This post has been updated with a new photo.

Darla Carter
Darla Carter is a hometown girl who recently joined the staff of Insider Louisville to mostly cover health. She previously served as a longtime health and fitness writer for The Courier-Journal, where she also worked for the Metro, Neighborhoods and Features departments. Prior to that, the award-winning journalist wrote for newspapers elsewhere in Kentucky and Tennessee, covering a range of topics, from education to courts. She's a graduate of Western Kentucky University, where she studied journalism and philosophy, and is the proud mom of two young children.