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Report: Iowa's Obesity Rate To Increase During COVID-19

According to a new report, one out of three Iowans are obese.
I Yumani
According to a new report, one out of three Iowans is obese.

A new report by the non-profit Trust For America’s Health found Iowa's obesity rate is increasing and projects it will increase due to food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new report has found one in three Iowans is obese and projects the state's obesity rate to increase due to food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report from the non-profit Trust For America’s Health found 34 percent of Iowans were obese in 2019, a rate that has significantly increased over a five year period, but is still lower than the national average, which is above 40 percent.

The report ranks Iowa 21st in the nation.

John Auerbach, the president of Trust for America's Health, said that number is expected to increase as more Iowans are experiencing food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If you are food insecure, you're more likely to buy the least expensive foods which unfortunately are the foods that have the most calories and the least nutritional value," he said.

Auerbach said obesity needs to be addressed using a multi-sector approach.

"We have concluded from looking at the the experience over the last 20 years as efforts were made to address this rising level of obesity, that the limited approaches that have been tried - a program here, an increased farmers market there - by themselves don't work,"he said.

Auerbach said the issue needs to be addressed by bringing together schools, businesses, public health experts and elected officials to increase healthy food options in the community, encourages physical activity and helps young kids develop healthy habits.

Strategies like banning advertisement for unhealthy food aimed at young children and increasing the price of junk food are strategies that have worked in other countries and parts of the U.S., he said.

The report also found Black people in the state have significantly higher obesity rates. According to the report, 43 percent of Black Iowans and were obese in 2019, compared to 35 percent of white Iowans and 37 percent of Latino Iowans.

Auerbach said this shows obesity isn't about individual choices.

"It's about income and accessibility to healthier foods or opportunities for physical exercise," he said. "And the Black residents of the state are more likely to be low income and more likely to experience racial discrimination, which can lead to fewer stores in the neighborhood, less access to to higher paying job."

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter