LITTLE ROCK, Ark — Arkansas is now ranked number 3 in the country in the percentage of adults considered obese - last year we were at number 7.
The last time Arkansas was the third-highest was back in 2016.
Last year 35 percent of adult Arkansans were considered obese, based off their reported height and weight. This year we went up 2 percentage points higher to 37.1 percent.
Dr. Bala, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Arkansas Department of Health, said even though those percentage differences don't look "statistically significant" it is still very concerning.
"Obesity is a complex problem and we've been dealing with this for a couple of decades now," he said.
According to new numbers released this week, Arkansas jumped from number seven to number three for adult obesity rate -- only Mississippi and West Virginia are higher.
Bala said it is more common in southern states because of the historical southern fried food habits.
"It's a big problem for the state and our neighbors as well," he said.
The study was based off adult's Body Mass Index (BMI), which is measured by height and weight.
Bala said BMI is not a perfect measure, but it is the standard.
"It has been validated in several studies as a common metric to use across population to measure the health and well-being of a population," he said.
Bala said obesity has two key ingredients: poor diet and lack of physical activity.
"Consuming high processed foods are a big part of our obesity problem and it is intertwined with the socioeconomic status of the individual, families and communities," he said.
Bala said obesity damages health by increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and more while also hurting your financial health.
"It is a costly condition and costing billions of dollars in healthcare," he said.
Arkansas has been trying to improve obesity in the past couple of years through its Healthy Active Arkansas Initiative.
This initiative uses nine strategies, backed by science, to lower obesity and promote physical activity.
Bala said it will take some time to see its results.
"Changing the paradigm from the sickness and poor health to a positive message to the people in that good things happen when your well and healthy," he said.
Bala said they are definitely going to double up on efforts and bring partners back to the table for the Healthy Active Arkansas Initiative.
Also, he said they will explore other options and make sure they are implementing every strategy they can do.