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NPR's series explores what it means to live in a nation where one in three adults is obese and looks at how life is changing as a result — in the home, at the grocery store, in the doctor's office, on the factory floor and at the airport.

Coloradans Getting Fat, Just Like Everyone Else

Colorado has lost its distinction as the only state with less than 20 percent of adults rated as obese.
Centers for Disease Control.
Colorado has lost its distinction as the only state with less than 20 percent of adults rated as obese.

The number of obese Colorado adults jumped from 19 to 22 percent in just one year, according to the Colorado Health Report Card released Thursday.

Colorado lost its distinction as the only state with fewer than 20 percent of the population obese.

“We are still the leanest state – in a fat nation,” said Charles Reyman, vice president of communications for The Colorado Health Foundation, which issued the report card.

That means state citizens as a whole are quickly becoming less healthy, in one major indicator. Obesity is related to a wide variety of ailments, including diabetes and heart disease. The most obese state is Mississippi at 34.5 percent.

Experts from the foundation blame preferences for fatty fast foods, and federal subsidies that favor less-healthy processed foods over the fresh fruits and vegetables that many are missing.

Obesity in children is also setting the stage for adulthood. And more Colorado children are growing up poor, with cheaper, less healthy meals, said TCHF vice president Shepard Nevel.

The report does not include new data on the weight of Colorado’s children, but last year it found 14 percent were obese.

“As childhood poverty jumped, we outpaced the nation on the rise in obesity,” Nevel said.

Foundation officials argued for investments in prevention, including losing weight, stopping smoking, and obtaining prenatal care, preventive dentistry and vaccinations. Workplace wellness programs pay off 6-to-1 on the investment in lower medical costs and absenteeism, the report said. General prevention can pay off at a 5-to-1 rate.

There’s good news in the report card, too. Colorado ranks among the top ten states for these achievements:

  • Only 28 percent of adolescents were sexually active – the lowest number in the country.
  • 25 percent of adolescents ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables – also best in the U.S.
  • 59 percent of older adults were vaccinated for pneumonia and flu.
  • 92 percent of women don’t smoke in the last three months of pregnancy
  •  83 percent of adults were physically active in a month.
  • 75 percent of older adults were physically active in a month.
  • Only 7 percent of older adults reported poor mental health eight days in a month.
  • Only 17 percent of adults were diagnosed with high blood pressure.
  • Only 4.5 percent of adults were diagnosed with diabetes.

Coloradans performed worst on getting their kids to the dentist, at 77 percent. That got the state ranked 38th. Colorado was 36th in getting children covered by health insurance.


Colorado Public News is created in partnership with Colorado Public Television 12, Denver’s independent PBS station. It is led by editor Ann Imse. Others on the Colorado Public News team include:Cara DeGette, managing editorNoelle Leavitt, recruiting and social media directorSonya Doctorian, video journalistDrew Jaynes, webmaster and photographerJournalists Bill Scanlon, Dennis Huspeni, Jody Berger, Sara Burnett, Jerd Smith, Michele Conklin, Andy Piper, Lauren Rickel, Raj Sharan, Amanda TurnerRobert D. Tonsing, publication designer and entrepreneur
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