The good news is that Connecticut has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation. The bad news is that the rate is rising, and higher than it should be.
Today, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics on obesity. According to the report, Mississippi had the highest adult obesity rate in the country, at 34.9 percent and Colorado had the lowest, at 20.7 percent.
Connecticut tied with New York and Nevada as the states with the seventh-lowest obesity rate, at 24.5 percent.
Though Connecticut is still in better shape than much of the country, the statistics paint a slightly different picture than the “F as in Fat” report released last year Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released its annual “F as in Fat.” That report showed that Connecticut’s adult obesity rate was 21.8 percent — the third lowest in the nation.
Obesity is defined as having a body mass index higher than 30. Body mass index (BMI) s calculated using one’s height and weight. A normal BMI is between 20 to 25 and a BMI over 25 is considered overweight.
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.
Still, local health experts said two things are obvious from these new statistics: The state is doing relatively well compared with the rest of the country, and there is still much room for improvement. “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.
Dr. Stuart Zarich, chief of cardiology at Bridgeport Hospital said the northeast and western states tend to fare well in these sorts of studies. Indeed, Massachusetts was ranked as the third least obese state in the country and Rhode Island, Vermont and New Hampshire all ranked among the less obese states.
Zarich said that might be partly attributable to education rates and socioeconomic status in those states. But even in places like Connecticut “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 know even about good nutrition.
“There’s a lot of ignorance out there about eating well and things like portion control and eating less refined foods,” Zarich said.
Bridgeport Hospital is part of 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.
Today’s release was a pre-cursor to the 2012 “F as in Fat” report, which will be released later this summer. For the first time, the report will include a study forecasting the 2030 obesity rates in each state.