RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new report from Virginia’s Joint Commission on Health Care found that 68% of Virginia adults were obese or overweight in 2021.

In addition, according to the report, nearly two in five kids (38%) ages 10-17 were considered overweight or obese in 2021. The report used body mass index (BMI) as a metric.

“Rates have been increasing substantially over the past three to four decades and unfortunately with the COVID pandemic, this is another health impact that we saw, that rates of overweight and obesity increased further during that time frame,” said Dr. Trey Wickham, Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at VCU Health.

The report also showed a disparity among races. It found that 47% of Black Virginians were considered obese in 2021. That’s compared to 33% of white Virginians, and 30% of Hispanics.

“We also know that a lot of social factors, things like the environment, access to healthy foods, access to places to exercise, and a lot of, kind of both social and health policy also contribute to this,” Dr. Wickham said. 

The report cites what insurance plans cover as a contributing factor to the obesity problem in Virginia.  For example, Medicaid recipients can have weight loss drugs and surgeries covered if they meet certain qualifications. However, insurance plans purchased through Virginia’s insurance marketplace aren’t required to cover those medications or procedures.

“It really does require for many patients, particularly with the most severe forms of obesity, a multi-modal approach,” Dr. Wickham said. “It’s a combination of lifestyle, so dietary and physical activity choices, but also adding in medication and potentially even bariatric or metabolic surgery.”

The report also found that eating disorders spiked among Medicaid recipients in recent years.