NH DHHS - Obesity Rates Increase in New Hampshire

Department of Health and Human Services Working to Promote Change

Concord, NH – The rate of obesity in New Hampshire has reached 25.7%, according to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The obesity epidemic affects every state, and New Hampshire falls roughly in the middle, but no state met the country’s Healthy People 2010 goal of an obesity rate below 15%.

The new data, published in today’s CDC Vital Signs Report, entitled “State-Specific Obesity Prevalence Among Adults—United States, 2009,” shows that nine states had an obesity rate above 30%, meaning more than 1 in 3 people in those states can be classified as obese. This is an increase from no states in 2000 and three states in 2005.

“These numbers are very concerning,” said Dr. José Montero, Director of Public Health at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). “As a nation and a state we are getting heavier and heavier, both the health consequences and the strain on our economy and healthcare system are tremendous.”

The study points out that people who are obese incur $1,429 per person extra in medical costs each year compared with people of normal weight, and that the nation’s total medical costs of obesity were $147 billion.

“Obesity is a complex problem that requires both personal and community action,” continued Montero. “We know it requires eating healthier and being active on most days but helping people to get there is the key. In Hew Hampshire we have been working on a number of initiatives to help people make better choices and take steps to live healthier, but to revers this epidemic we need to change our communities into places that strongly support healthy eating and active living.”

DHHS now has an obesity program within the Division of Public Health Services through funding from the CDC, the New Hampshire obesity prevention plan, Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL), has been in place for over two years, and DHHS is working with State and federal partners to implement the Health Care Reform Act, which includes such steps as requiring menu labeling.

The HEAL initiative is helping communities to become healthier, such as adding walking trails, encouraging parents to allow children to bike or walk to school, encouraging healthy options in school vending machines, and creating incentives for restaurants and food retailers to provide healthier options for customers.

The Vital Signs report is based on new data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. BRFSS is the states’ source of data for monitoring Healthy People 2010 objectives. To assess obesity prevalence, approximately 400,000 survey respondents were asked to provide their height and weight, which is used to calculate their body mass index (BMI). A person is considered obese if they have a BMI of 30 or above.

For more information on obesity rates, including an animated map, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns  or www.cdc.gov/obesity . For information about HEAL New Hampshire go to www.healnh.org. To learn more about the Obesity Prevention Program at DHHS, visit www.dhhs.state.nh.us/DHHS/NHP/obesity.htm or call 603-271-4517.