Colorado saw a significant increase in obesity from 2015 to 2016, but remains the leanest state in the nation. The state's adult obesity rate climbed from 20.2 percent in 2015 to 22.3 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Like most of the nation, Colorado saw its obesity rate increase steadily for two decades before it began leveling off during the past few years. According to the CDC, Colorado was one of four states that saw a statistically significant increase from 2015 to 2016. The health department will continue to monitor annual changes to determine if this recent spike in obesity is a trend.
"Regardless of the state's ranking as the leanest state in the nation, we know too many Coloradans are overweight or obese," said Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. "We will continue to work with our partners statewide to make it easier for Coloradans to eat healthier and move more."
Obesity is a complex problem, with many causes and consequences. Causes are systemic and demand changes to the food environment, physical environment, personal behavior and social norms. Consequences include a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.
These consequences are preventable, however. The state health department works with communities, local public health agencies and statewide partners to reduce obesity by supporting safe, easy access to healthy food and physical activity in neighborhoods, day care centers, schools, worksites and hospitals. It supports state initiatives to improve and expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure and national efforts to promote walking and walkable communities.
Despite the recent rise in the state's obesity rate, Coloradans are moving more. According to the CDC, the proportion of Colorado adults who reported no recreational physical activity dropped from 17.9 percent in 2015 to 15.8 percent in 2016.
Research shows obesity prevention works best if it starts early. The health department continues to enhance the nutritional value of its food assistance programs for low-income children by offering more whole, grains, fresh produce and healthy drinks and focusing on nutrition education and breastfeeding support for new parents. The proportion of children participating in the Colorado Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children who have obesity dropped from 8.4 percent in 2012 to 7 percent in 2016.