New report shows increase in number of obese Idaho adults

Idaho has a weight problem.

That’s surprising in a state that prides itself on its culture of outdoor activities and recreation, but newly released data on health risks for Idaho adults shows a continued increasing trend in people who are obese or overweight. The Idaho Behavioral Risk Factors, 2013 report shows 29.6 percent of Idaho adults reported being obese, while 64.9 percent said they were overweight. In 2012, 26.8 percent of adults surveyed reported they were obese, with 62.5 percent being overweight.

“Being overweight or obese can cause or worsen serious chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and stroke,” says Angie Gribble, public health program manager for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN). “We all need to work together to turn this trend around because those extra pounds can lead to poor health and premature death.” 

The Idaho Behavioral Risk Factors, published last week, is an annual report that monitors risk factors associated with the leading causes of death and disability among adults. It is coordinated with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with similar surveys conducted in all other states. This report provides the data used for comparisons among states for such things as smoking rates, seat-belt use, health insurance coverage, binge drinking and a host of other things that contribute to overall well-being and health. Virtually all of the diseases and behaviors being measured are things public health is targeting for improvement.

The 2013 report shows Idaho adults fare well on a national scale, with only a few areas where performance is worse. Below are examples of the data analyzed:

Idaho adults who……….. Idaho % U.S. Median %
Reported their  general health as fair or poor 14.2% 16.7%
Were obese (BMI >30) 29.6% 29.4%
Smoked cigarettes 17.2% 19.0%
Did not participate in leisure time activity 23.7% 25.4%
Have ever been told they had diabetes 8.4% 9.7%
Had not had cholesterol checked in last 5 years 30.7% 23.6%

The report also shows annual trends, categorizing the responses geographically among the seven public health districts. An example using obesity, shows:

Idaho adults who were obese


Idaho adults who were obese by public health district, 2013


(For a map of the public health districts, click here; for information explaining the measuring process for overweight and obesity, click here.)

The data for each category is further broken down by gender, age group, income levels, education, ethnicity and employment. With this data, public health professionals and partners can strategize ways to improve performance, which will ultimately save lives and improve the quality of life for our citizens.

Applying current strategies to the obesity example again, IPAN, the Public Health Districts and other partners are:

  • Working to increase the number of farmers markets statewide that accept Food Stamp benefits through Electronic Benefit Transfer, in order to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Implementing workshops to teach early child care providers about physical activity, screen time, healthy nutrition, healthy beverage, and infant feeding best practices.
  • Working with employers on worksite wellness programming
  • Action planning with communities statewide for using community design and programming to increase access to physical activity, particularly through walking
  • Working with school district wellness councils to implement comprehensive physical activity and nutrition programming throughout the school day.

All these interventions are the result of having good data that shows the scope and magnitude of a problem.  The Idaho Behavioral Risk Factors, 2013 is full of good data that public health professionals continually use to improve the overall population health of Idaho.  To view the report, please click here.

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