Across Idaho, nearly 30% of children, 25% of adolescents and over 62% of adults live with daily health and social challenges of overweight and obesity and face a future with high risk of chronic disease, disability, social stigma, and a shortened, lower quality of life. Obesity is costly and all Idahoans share this burden through increased health care cost, lower productivity, and concern for the health of their loved ones.
Experts classify obesity as a disease of epidemic proportion. This 21st century disease is unlike communicable diseases of the past with a single, identifiable agent that given the right science and resources is containable. Obesity is a complex, multi-factorial condition requiring a systems approach. Conditions in utero, early feeding practices, personal choice, access to adequate physical activity and affordable healthy food, healthy enhancing school, work and communities along with clear and consistent messages create a web of factors that impact obesity. A systems approach to preventing obesity requires pulling on multiple of strings of a complex and interconnected system that supports our current obesogenic environment.
No county or region in Idaho is immune to obesity. As this report describes, some Idahoans face higher obesity prevalence, have fewer resources and live in regions with fewer obesity protections. The regions facing the greatest risks are the same regions experiencing increased poverty, food insecurity and are more likely communities with less education and employment. Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native children experience the greatest risk of all. Fortunately, committed Idahoans across multiple sectors apply resources, time and talent to prevent obesity. The genesis of this report arose from a desire to answer four critical questions about obesity in Idaho:
- What data are readily available to assess obesity and obesity-related factors?
- Does the available data identify the populations most impacted by obesity and in need of strategic actions?
- What obesity prevention data are missing or exist at some level but are disconnected from avilable data systems and reporting mechanisms?
- What obesity indicators are most important to measure to inform interventions and to evaluate progress toward reducing obesity and impacting obesity-related factors?