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Colorado Ranked Leanest State, but Obesity Still Troubles Health Officials

Nolan O'Brien

A new study ranks Colorado as the least obese state in the nation.  But the good news is tempered by obesity rates that have been rising nationwide.

Two public health groups, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, looked at state-by-state statistics from the last two decades. Their findings point to a nation that’s steadily growing more obese.

Every state but Colorado now has an obesity rate above 20%. And a dozen states – mostly in the South – have rates of 30% or higher. 

State health officials say despite Colorado being ranked the leanest state, the overall growth in obesity is still troubling.  

“We started off the leanest when they started looking at this 15 years ago, and we still are; but we’ve grown since then, more than we’d like to,” says Chris Lindley, Director of the Prevention Services Division for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.  “We’d like to turn back the rate of growth and level it off, and actually start bringing it down.”

In 1995, no state was above 20% – and Colorado’s current rate of 19.8% would have been the highest in the nation then. This year, Mississippi topped the list for the seventh year in a row, with Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee and West Virginia close behind. No state decreased its level of obesity, which is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, based on weight and height.

As the host of KUNC’s new program and podcast In the NoCo, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. Northern Colorado is such a diverse and growing region, brimming with history, culture, music, education, civic engagement, and amazing outdoor recreation. I love finding the stories and voices that reflect what makes NoCo such an extraordinary place to live.
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