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U.S. obesity rate on the rise as health officials seek solutions
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Health officials are trying to combat the rising obesity rate with campaigns about healthy diet and exercise practices and adjustments to Medicare offerings. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
The obesity problem in the United States is getting worse, in spite of creative (and expensive) efforts to combat it.

In 2014, 27.7 percent of American adults were obese, according to the latest Gallup-Healthways data. The figure continues an upward trend in the obesity rate, which has risen 2.2 percentage points since 2008, when the organizations began tracking weight.

The increase is almost entirely captured by people shifting from the overweight category to the obese category. The survey sorted more than 167,000 interviews using body mass index, a calculation based on each respondent's height and weight. Obesity is defined as having a BMI greater than 30.

Citing the national trend toward obesity, public health officials have committed increasing amounts of energy and resources into raising awareness of healthy diet and exercise habits in recent years.

National programs include "Let's Move!," a White House-based initiative combatting childhood obesity, "Go4Life," a health education program launched in 2011 by the National Institute on Aging, and "We Can!," an initiative from the National Institutes of Health directed at instilling healthy habits in young people.

In November, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized rules regarding calorie count reporting in movie theaters, gas stations, vending machines and deli areas at grocery stores, Deseret News National reported. The FDA said such information encourages healthier decisions from customers and ignored outcries from restaurant industry leaders who said implementation would be too expensive.

Additionally, senior citizen health has emerged as a key target for health officials' efforts. The new data from Gallup-Healthways found that obesity has risen most sharply among older Americans since 2008.

"Americans aged 65 and older have seen the sharpest uptick in obesity, a four-percentage-point increase to 27.4 percent," the report noted.

Because of the link between obesity and health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure that plague older Americans, the government has made weight management services available through Medicare, Sunrise Senior Living reported.

"Any senior receiving Medicare who has a body mass index above 30 may receive weight screenings and medical weight-loss counseling," the article noted.

However, researchers who headed the Gallup-Healthways survey have noted that, although well-intentioned, national campaigns focused on diet and exercise won't solve the whole problem.

"To make a truly measurable impact on reducing obesity rates, interventions should also address other factors known to influence weight management, such as financial and social well-being," said Janna Lacatell, Healthways lifestyle solutions director.
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