SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Indiana has a weighty problem.
An annual report from the Trust for America's Health ranks Indiana as the 15th-fattest state with an obesity rate of 29.1 percent. Indiana's obesity rate has increased by 60 percent since 1995, the report found. Its diabetes rate has increased from 4.8 percent to 9.6 percent during that span.
The findings didn't come as a surprise to Marcie Memmer, director of nutrition and physical activity at the state Department of Health. She cited poor nutrition, sedentary behavior and environments that discourage healthy habits, such as unhealthy foods being generally cheaper to buy and many communities' lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
"Obesity is a very complex condition to address because there are so many things contributing to it," she said.
There is a bit of good news, though. Indiana residents aren't packing on the pounds as quickly as some other states. Back in 1995, when Indiana had an obesity rate of 18.3 percent, it was ranked as the nation's second-most obese state.
The report found Indiana now has a combined obesity and overweight rate of 65.1 percent.
The study released Thursday and based on 2010 data shows Colorado had the lowest obesity rate at 19.8 percent. Mississippi was the most obese at 34.4 percent. Indiana did better than most surrounding states. Kentucky was sixth at 31.5 percent, Michigan was 10th at 30.5 percent, Ohio was 13th at 29.6 percent and Illinois was 23rd at 27.7 percent.
The Indiana State Department of Health released a 10-year plan in January aimed at improving the health of state residents. It set a goal of increasing the number of adults who are at a healthy weight from 35 percent to 38 percent by 2020 and reducing the number of Indiana adults who are obese from 25 percent by 2020.
The 63-page plan calls for making it easier for people to have access to healthy foods and drinks by promoting the availability of healthier foods and beverages in cafeterias and vending machines in state agencies and state-owned facilities and providing information to institutional buyers on purchasing healthier foods. It calls for increasing regular physical activity by advocating that schools offer daily physical education from kindergarten through 12th grade and encouraging a diverse group of local agencies and organizations to plan and implement nutrition- and physical activity related activities.
"When you consider that in our state roughly two-thirds of our population is overweight or obese, there's a need for very broad ways in addressing it," Memmer said. "It's hard to get in shape if your environment doesn't support that."
She said the solution is making it easier for people to stay fit.
"It's about changing things so that the healthiest choice is the easiest choice," she said.
Tom Coyne can be reached at http://twitter.com/TomCoyneAP