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Car-Dependent States Hit Hardest by Obesity Epidemic

driving_obesity.pngStates where more people drive to work
face an even worse obesity crisis. Graphic: Noah Kazis and Carly Clark

is a public health issue. As profiled in the recently released report
from the Trust for America's Health, "F as in Fat,"
obesity rates continue to rise across the nation, increasing the risk
of serious health problems like diabetes and hypertension. To solve the
obesity epidemic, the data suggest, we need to rethink our dependence on
the automobile. 

"F as in Fat" breaks out obesity numbers state by state. After
glancing at their
, it seemed like transit and pedestrian-friendly states were
doing better than the national average. To get more precise, we decided
to compare adult obesity rates, as gathered in the report, to commuting
statistics in the U.S. Census. You
can download our spreadsheet here

The result is the scatterplot shown above, which clearly shows that
states where more people drive to work have higher obesity rates.
Caveats abound -- correlation isn't causation and state-level data can
obscure important patterns visible only through a closer microscope --
but the result is provocative. The two outliers are D.C. and New York
State; they imply that while a large shift away from driving can make a
big difference, it can't solve the obesity crisis on its own.

Although "F as in Fat" doesn't analyze transportation behavior
itself, the authors agree that moving away from a reliance on the
automobile is a critical component in curbing obesity. Their
recommendations include: passing
legislation supporting non-motorized transportation
, such as an
expansion of the Safe Routes to School program or a national complete
streets bill; building more safe pedestrian space and bike paths to
encourage active transport; and supporting mixed-use, walkable, and
transit-oriented development.

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