The state Department of Public Health and Environment announced today that although Colorado ranks as one of the leanest states in the country, people here are getting fatter. Colorado's obesity rate climbed faster than the country's from 1995 through 2008, rising 89 percent while the number of obese adults nationwide rose 67 percent, the report said.
The Health Department said that during that 13-year period, the percentage of Coloradans classified as obese nearly doubled, from 10.1 percent to 19.1 percent, or from one in 10 residents to nearly one in five. That's still lower than the nationwide obesity rate of 26.6 percent, but Colorado's trend is discouraging, the department said. Obesity rates in Colorado children, meanwhile, exceed the rates of several other states.
The health police say obesity is a chief risk factor for chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, and a major driver of health care costs. Nationally, per capita medical spending for obese people in 2006 was 42 percent greater ($1,429 per person) than spending for people of healthy weight, the Health Department said. The latest economic data for Colorado from 2003 estimates the obesity cost to taxpayers at $874 million.
The answer could be as simple as changing policies to create more parks and trails and improve access to community gardens and farmers markets. Employers might offer more fitness opportunities, while schools could boost kids' daily physical activity and serve more fruits and vegetables.