Maren Stewart : Lean but still too fat in Colorado
Colorado is officially the leanest state in the nation, with a 19.8 percent adult obesity rate, according to the “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future” report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America’s Health released last week.
Before we throw ourselves a congratulatory party, a deeper look at the data shows a celebration is definitely not in order. Consider the following facts:
– In every part of the country, including Colorado, people considered to be a healthy weight are now in the minority.
– Colorado’s obesity rate has nearly doubled in the past 15 years.
– Today, one in five Coloradans are obese and 56.2 percent are either overweight or obese.
– With a 19.8 percent obesity rate, our state would have been the most obese state in the nation in 1995.
The report shows that among ethnic populations, disparities are strong. Colorado African-American and Latino populations have obesity rates of 27.9 percent and 24.8 percent, respectively, as compared to whites, at 18.3 percent.
We don’t need a party – we need a gut check, both literally and figuratively.
Fortunately, a movement to turn the tide of obesity has already begun in Colorado. Several organizations, including The Colorado Health Foundation, The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Kaiser Permanente, and LiveWell Colorado are partnering with others throughout the state to inspire sustainable individual behavior change and improve Coloradans’ access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity – two vital strategies to prevent and reduce obesity.
Since LiveWell Colorado launched its culture change campaign one month ago, Coloradans have calculated more than 100,000 “gut checks” at livewellcolorado.org to find out how healthy they are at their current weight and learn simple ways to make better choices. As more Coloradans become aware that obesity is not someone else’s problem, they are adopting healthier habits and will eventually engage in policy efforts to make environments more conducive to those healthy habits.
Through a collaborative process, LiveWell Colorado has also developed a series of policy blueprints to guide statewide efforts in the areas of food access, worksite wellness and the built environment. These blueprints help to inform efforts and have resulted in legislative successes such as the creation of Colorado’s first-ever Food Systems Advisory Council, focused on improving access to healthy food within Colorado. The Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Policy Group, comprised of multi-sector partners and stakeholders, led the successful passage of a bill which ensures Colorado elementary students get 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Being dubbed the leanest state in a nation where adult obesity rates did not decline in any state last year, and in fact increased in 16 states, is a dubious honor. However, it does present Colorado with the opportunity to build on the momentum already underway and establish a successful obesity prevention model for other states to emulate.
Maren Stewart, JD is president and CEO of LiveWell Colorado, a nonprofit focused on preventing and reducing obesity in Colorado by promoting healthy eating and active living. Find out more at http://www.LiveWellColorado.org.
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