Here's the skinny: State has lower obesity rate
Published 4:42 pm, Thursday, August 16, 2012
Recently released statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlight good news and bad news for Connecticut residents when it comes to the ever-hot topic of obesity.
The good news is that Connecticut has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation. The bad news is that almost a quarter of the state's adults are obese, which experts said is way too high.
On Monday, the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an analysis of CDC statistics on obesity showing that 24.5 percent of Connecticut adults are obese. The state tied with New York and Nevada for the seventh lowest rate in the country. Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate in the country, at 34.9 percent and Colorado had the lowest, at 20.7 percent.
At least one expert wasn't shocked by Connecticut's relative svelteness. Dr. Stuart Zarich, chief of cardiology at Bridgeport Hospital, said the Northeast and western states tend to fare well in these sorts of studies. Massachusetts was ranked as the third least obese state in the country and Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire all ranked among the slimmer spots in the nation.
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Zarich said that might be partly attributable to education rates and socioeconomic status in those states. "It can be expensive to eat well," he pointed out. Thus, it follows that wealthier states, like Connecticut, would have lower obesity rates.
On the other side of the coin, states in the South and Midwest seemed to have the highest rates. Louisiana ranked as the second fattest state, with an adult obesity rate of 33.4 percent, followed by West Virginia (32.4 percent) and Alabama (32 percent). Michigan rounded out the top five, with an obesity rate of 31.3 percent.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30. Body mass index (BMI) is calculated using one's height and weight. A normal BMI is between 20 to 25 and a BMI over 25 is considered overweight.
Though Connecticut is in relatively good shape, experts cautioned that having an adult obesity rate of almost 25 percent isn't really applause worthy. "We really need to be more proactive than we've been," said Dr. Frank Scifo, medical director of physician operation at the Multi-Specialty Group at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Bridgeport.
Scifo said one way to get more people on the right track is for more health plans to offer incentives to customers who engage in good habits like regular exercise and eating well.
Zarich agreed that, as a state, "we can always do better." He said there are still plenty of people in the state who can't afford healthy food and many more who still don't even know about good nutrition.
Organizations like St. Vincent's and Bridgeport Hospital have taken some steps to make the region more weight-conscious. Both hospitals are part of Get Healthy CT, a coalition of businesses and other organizations in greater Bridgeport aiming to curb obesity. The organization has taken a number of actions to encourage a healthier culture in the city, including getting businesses to sign a Healthy Eating Pledge, vowing to serve healthy options at events and meetings, in addition to, or instead of, doughnuts and other unhealthy options.
But Zarich said even more education is needed for significant progress to be made. "There's a lot of ignorance out there about eating well and things like portion control and eating less refined foods," Zarich said.
The CDC numbers paint a slightly different picture than the "F as in Fat" report released last year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That report showed that Connecticut's adult obesity rate was 21.8 percent -- the third lowest in the nation.
The release on the new statistics pointed out that the CDC has changed the way it collects numbers on obesity and other health aspects. Though the new techniques are intended to give a more accurate picture of each state's population, the shift in methodology does make it harder to make direct comparisons with previous years.
The release was a pre-cursor to the 2012 "F as in Fat" report, which will be released later this summer. The report will include a study forecasting the 2030 obesity rates in each state.
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