Barb Parnell: Bulging waistlines are growing and costly problem
Last week, a report titled “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future” issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health warned that the number of obese adults, along with related disease rates and health care costs, are on course to increase dramatically in every part of the country. While once again Colorado tops the list as the “leanest state” of adults, more than 20 percent of adults in Colorado are obese. Surprisingly, our children in Colorado have moved from third to 23rd “leanest” in the U.S.
This latest report comes on the heels of two other recent reports. A Gallup Poll reported that 81 percent of Americans say they consider obesity a “very” or “extremely” serious problem in our society — now surpassing concern about the effects of cigarettes and alcohol.
And the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Initiative’s “Lots to Lose” report anticipates a $2 trillion increase, each year, in national health care spending and called obesity “the most urgent public health problem in America today.” America’s — and the state of Colorado’s — economic development is being stunted by skyrocketing health care costs resulting from obesity.
Obesity is an issue that must be tackled now or the ramifications will impact not only our waistlines but also our bottom lines.
A multi-sector, collaborative approach is necessary to combat this problem, and everyone has a role to play. Individuals must adopt healthier, sustainable behaviors; school, worksites and communities must provide opportunities for healthy eating and active living; and elected officials must support policies that promote and encourage health.
The good news is that we can reverse these trends and stop this epidemic.
The “F as in Fat Report” suggests that by decreasing the average body mass index, or BMI, of adults by only 5 percent, nearly every state could save between 6.5 and 7.9 percent in health care costs. Specifically, Colorado could save $10.8 billion by 2030.
As LiveWell Northwest Colorado has seen firsthand, it is possible to make a difference. In Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek, LiveWell has worked with local governments to enhance the trail systems with increased signage and to improve park facilities. We also have worked to increase awareness and change behaviors related to healthy eating and active living through the “5-2-1-0 Let’s Go!” campaign through the schools, employers and the Steamboat Today. We also have worked to implement the “Make a Rainbow on Your Plate” initiative in all three Routt County school districts. These are long-term, sustainable changes that can prevent obesity in our future work force.
I challenge each person reading this to adopt one new healthy habit and take that first step toward helping Colorado save more lives and millions of dollars in unnecessary health care costs.
The fight against obesity is a battle for our health — physical and fiscal — and ultimately for our future. Colorado deserves better than the title of “Best of the Worst.”
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