America’s Fat Map

Let me make two broad un-journalistic statements:

1. New Yorkers are skinny because they have to walk everywhere

2. The rest of America is fat.

What? Is it wrong to say? Or is it better if you see it visually?

That’s exactly what CalorieLab did last year:


CalorieLab calculated the rates of obesity per state by using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data is determined over a three-year average to avoid errors.

I like that CalorieLab emphasized that the 2011 map cannot be compared to the obesity maps it created in previous years because the color coding gradient has changed. In class, we came across a few instances when the color gradient didn’t make sense when comparing maps. I also like the map is available in various formats, JPEG, SVG, EPS, so that users can post it.

So let’s look at the statistics: 68 percent of Mississippians are overweight and/or obese. And 57.6 percent of people in Colorado are the same, overweight and/or obese. I wasn’t shocked by the high rate of overweight citizens per state. I was more shocked that there is a small difference between Mississippi and Colorado, even though Mississippi is the fattest state and Colorado is supposedly the leanest.

The data sort of doesn’t make sense to me though. How did the color gradient change when the data is spaced out over three years? Is the percentage of obesity change over one year or over the new three-year average?

Visually, the one thing that stands out for me is what the color gradients mean. Why does it range from green to orange/red? Do the colors signify something?

Also, I know that CalorieLab used CDC data but it would have been more informative to compare the state obesity trends to other factors, such as health insurance rates in the state, availability of nutritionists and family doctors in the state.


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