Barb Parnell: Fight obesity | SteamboatToday.com

Barb Parnell: Fight obesity

— Colorado is officially the leanest state in the nation, with a 19.8 percent adult obesity rate, according to the "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future" report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health released in July.

But before we throw ourselves a congratulatory party, a deeper look at the data shows a celebration is definitely not in order. Consider the following facts:

■ In every part of the country, including Colorado, people considered to be a healthy weight are now in the minority.

■ Colorado's obesity rate has nearly doubled in the past 15 years.

■ Today, one in five Coloradans are obese and 56.2 percent are either overweight or obese.

■ With a 19.8 percent obesity rate, our state would have been the most obese state in the nation in 1995.

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■ In Routt County, our student obesity rate ranges from 13 to 33 percent.

The report shows that among ethnic populations, disparities are strong. Colorado African-American and Latino populations have obesity rates of 27.9 percent and 24.8 percent, respectively, as compared to whites, at 18.3 percent.

We don't need a party — we need a gut check, both literally and figuratively.

Fortunately, a movement to turn the tide of obesity has already begun in Colorado, including right here in Routt County — LiveWell Northwest Colorado. Several organizations, including the Colorado Health Foundation, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Kaiser Permanente, and LiveWell Colorado are partnering with others throughout the state to inspire sustainable individual behavior change and improve Coloradans' access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity — two vital strategies to prevent and reduce obesity.

LiveWell Northwest Colorado is partnering with the three school districts to promote healthier foods and to increase physical activity during the school day. Partnerships with Oak Creek to provide trails and a new park, a disc golf course in Hayden and a Yampa River Core Trail wayfinding program in Steamboat Springs to promote physical activity among residents. The Steamboat Pilot & Today is partnering with LiveWell Northwest Colorado to provide a weekly "Stepping Out in Routt" series this summer. Looking ahead to 2012, we plan to promote a community challenge to encourage residents of Routt County to make healthy lifestyle changes.

Since LiveWell Colorado launched its culture change campaign one month ago, Coloradans have calculated more than 100,000 "gut checks" at http://www.livewellcolorado.org to find out how healthy they are at their current weight and learn simple ways to make better choices. As more Coloradans and more residents of Routt County become aware that obesity is not someone else's problem, they are adopting healthier habits and will eventually engage in policy efforts to make environments more conducive to those healthy habits.

Being dubbed the leanest state in a nation where adult obesity rates did not decline in any state last year, and in fact increased in 16 states, is a dubious honor. However, it does present Colorado and LiveWell Northwest Colorado with the opportunity to build on the momentum already underway and establish a successful obesity prevention model for other states to emulate.

Barb Parnell

LiveWell Northwest Colorado community coordinator for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association

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