WASHINGTON, DC -- Nine states now have an obesity rate of 30 percent or more, three times as many as in 2007, according to a report released today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2000, no states had an obesity rate of 30 percent or more, the report titled “State-Specific Obesity Prevalence Among Adults–United States, 2009” found. In addition, medical costs for obesity-related problems were estimated at $147 billion in 2008. Obese individuals also have annual medical costs that are $1,400 higher than people at a normal weight.

“Obesity is a major public health problem,” Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, said in a press conference. “We need intensive and ongoing efforts to address obesity or more people will get sick and die from the complications of obesity, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.”

The report probably underestimates the prevalence of obesity, the CDC noted, because it was based on self-reported data from a phone survey of 400,000 people asked to give their height and weight. That information was used to calculate survey participants’ body mass index (BMI). The data was from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).

The BRFSS obesity rate estimate of 26.7 percent is 7.2 percentage points lower than the 33.9 percent national estimate taken in 2007 to 2008 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. That survey measured people’s height and weight, rather than relying on self-reported data.

In 2007, the BRFSS survey found three states with obesity prevalence above 30 percent—Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi. In 2009, that number tripled and included Missouri, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, plus the three states from the 2007 survey.

“Obesity is a complex problem that requires both personal and community action,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity. “People in all communities should be able to make healthy choices, but in order to make those choices, there must be healthy choices to make. We need to change our communities into places where healthy eating and active living are the easiest path.”