The 2013 Gallup Well-Being Poll published on March 4 shows Montana overtook Colorado as the least obese state. The poll was based on a survey with a random sample of 178,072 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an error margin of plus or minus 1 to 2 percent for most states. Colorado lost this title for the first time since the poll started in 2008 and is now the second healthiest state. This may not come as much of a surprise to Coloradans, as its obesity rate has been increasing every year. The Gallup poll also shows the nation has continued to gain weight every year: the national average obesity rate increased by 0.9 percent from 2012 to 27.1 percent in 2013.
The most obese state also changed from West Virginia to Mississippi. The obese rate of Montana and Mississippi is 19.6 percent and 35.4 percent, respectively. The 2013 survey continues to show the geographic divide: Southern and Midwestern states are home to highest obese rates and Western and Northeastern states have the lowest. The numbers of states with 30 percent adult obese rate increased from five in 2012 to 11 in 2013 and the adult obese rate is over 20 percent in every state except Montana. High obesity rates are closed linked to high rates of chronic disease. Adults in states with lowest obese rates reported a healthier eating habit and a more active lifestyle.
Whether Colorado can get back to the least obese state for adults depends a lot on its management of its childhood obesity rate, which has been among the fastest growing in the U.S. Obesity rate in children is a critical number to pay attention to, because obese children are likely to be obese adults when growing up, and at an earlier age, interventions are more likely to be effective. Childhood obesity is particularly acute among children in low-income families, as they face food insecurity, lack of safe places for physical activity, limited or inconsistent access to healthy and nutritious food choices. Colorado children living in poverty increased by 73 percent between 2000 and 2006.
In summer 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a study of the obesity rate among low-income preschoolers between 2009 and 2011, reporting a first time ever decline in 19 out of 43 states. Colorado was one of the only three states actually saw an increase in this category, but the rate in Colorado was still below the national average. Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) showed the obese rate of preschoolers dropped in 2012 to be lower than the 2008 level, a return to the right direction.
In average, one in eight preschoolers are obese in 2011 according to the CDC report, so clearly a lot more work from various parties including the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), more healthy food at school, more physical active time, local food assistance program and increasing breastfeeding in hospitals and workplaces, just to name a few, are all needed to tackle the complex childhood obesity issue. This is a must for a healthy adulthood for every state. As the Gallup poll showed, Colorado faces the new reality that it is no longer the healthiest state, and has its work cut out to re-claim that title.
By Tina Zhang