Colorado Adults Remain Leanest in the Nation

Published Sunday, September 4, 2016

By Dave Brendsel

Colorado remained the leanest state in the nation in 2015, with a 20.2 percent adult obesity rate, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Colorado's obesity rate increased dramatically from 2000 through 2010 but since then has leveled off. Nevertheless, one in five Colorado adults is obese, and obesity rates are higher for African-American (27.7 percent) and Hispanic (28.3 percent) Coloradans.

"Our efforts seem to be contributing to a growing awareness across Colorado of the health costs of obesity and the benefits of a healthy lifestyle," said Joan Brucha, manager of the health department's Healthy Eating Active Living Unit. "But we can see there's clearly more work to be done to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation."

Obesity is a complex problem, with many causes and consequences. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer --  some of the leading causes of preventable death.

Colorado is the second-fastest growing state in the nation, according to new Census Bureau data, attracting people drawn to its outdoor opportunities, abundant sunshine and active lifestyle. Coloradans rank first in physical activity according to United Health Foundation's annual health rankings. But it has experienced the same growth in the prevalence of obesity as other states in the nation.

Gov. Hickenlooper's 2013 State of Health Report named statewide obesity prevention and reduction a priority, as he called for making Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and local public health agencies also have prioritized obesity reduction.

While obesity is a complex, serious and costly public health problem, state and local health agencies are making progress implementing proven strategies across multiple settings and sectors to reduce obesity, including:

*Breastfeeding: We encourage exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, work with employers to accommodate lactating moms, and work with hospitals to be certified as "baby friendly" by supporting breastfeeding initiation.

*Built environment: We work with local communities to shape land use and transportation planning, policies and practices to increase physical activity.

*Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact: We work with 17 hospitals statewide to improve the nutrition of food and beverages offered to to patients, families, visitors and staff and are recruiting more hospitals to join.

*Early Childhood Obesity Prevention: We provide obesity prevention resources and tools for child care, primary care and public health providers throughout Colorado.

*Healthy food environments: We work with the food industry to increase the availability of healthier food in retail stores, corner stores and small grocery stores, and promote food service guidelines and nutrition standards in hospitals, schools and state agencies.

*Worksite Wellness: We provide guidance to employers implementing comprehensive worksite wellness programs.

*Healthy schools: We work with schools and other local partners to ensure young people have access to healthy eating and physical activity.

Health Disparities Grant Program: We fund local public health and nonprofit agency efforts to prevent obesity and chronic disease in low-income, racially diverse communities.