Tag Archives: self reporting

Does this state make my butt look big?

Brenda Goodman

About Brenda Goodman

Brenda Goodman (@GoodmanBrenda), an Atlanta-based freelancer, is AHCJ’s topic leader on medical studies, curating related material at healthjournalism.org. She welcomes questions and suggestions on medical study resources and tip sheets at brenda@healthjournalism.org.

A study published this month in the journal Obesity reports that the largest percentage of obese people in the United States live in the Great Plains, not in the South, as surveys have long indicated.

Researchers found 41 percent obesity in a census region that includes Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas, while the East Central South region—Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Kentucky – weighed in with 31 percent obesity. Mississippi and Alabama have long ranked first and second as the most obese states in the nation, according to data compiled by the CDC.

The study suggests the dubious honor of being the fattest region in the U.S. should go to the nation’s breadbasket, not to the buckle of its BBQ belt.

“That’s a pretty big difference,” said senior author George Howard, Dr.P.H., chair of biostatistics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “Don’t get me wrong, 31 percent obesity is not good, but it’s not the worst.”

The difference is important, too, because these kinds of rankings often help determine which states get federal public health dollars for research and anti-obesity campaigns.

How could this happen? Blame a problem that bedevils all kinds of research: self-reported data. Continue reading