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Overweight & Obesity

kids eating apples

Obesity in Colorado - Reducing the Weight of the State


While Colorado adults are the leanest in the nation, Colorado has not escaped the national obesity epidemic. The state's childhood obesity rate ranks 23rd in the nation and statewide obesity rates have  doubled during the past two decades. Today, one in five Colorado adults is obese and more than half are overweight.


Obesity is a public health risk that threatens the quality and quantity of life of Colorado children and adults. Obese Coloradans are at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Medical care for obese Coloradans costs the state more than $1 billion each year. 


The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is working to reduce and reverse the weight of the state through proven, innovative strategies aimed at increasing physical activity and healthy eating statewide.  


Obesity is one of Colorado's 10 Winnable Battles. The Prevention Services Division is leading this battle by working with public and private partners across the state to increase physical activity and healthy eating in schools, day care facilities, worksites and communities. 


The recent increase in overweight and obesity is caused by a complex combination of personal, environmental, social, genetic, and socioeconomic factors.  Weight is gained when there is an energy imbalance.  Energy is consumed through eating food (calories) and is expended through physical activity and metabolism (burning calories).  When more energy is consumed (through eating) than expended (through physical activity and metabolism), the result is a gain of weight.  


Some of the reasons that calories are being consumed at a higher rate are continually increasing portion sizes, abundance and palatability of high calorie food (soft drinks, fast food, etc), and relative inexpensive cost of food.  Calories are also being expended at a lower rate than in previous decades.  Physical activity is not as essential to daily living as it has been in the past.  A smaller proportion of jobs require physical labor, and more time and labor saving devices are available (automobiles, remote controls, etc).  These recent trends significantly contribute to the imbalance in energy expenditure with more calories being consumed, and fewer calories being used.

There is no simple solution to significantly reduce overweight and obesity. As a public health problem, it should be approached through the use of several channels. Some measures that can be taken include, but are not limited to:


  • Changing the perception of overweight and obesity at all ages from being a cosmetic problem to a health problem.

  • Breastfeeding (breastfed infants may be less likely to become overweight or obese, and mothers who breastfeed may return to pre-pregnancy weight more quickly).

  • Providing quality daily physical education in all school grades.

  • Choosing to be physically active during leisure time (at least 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity per day, most days of the week, and 60 minutes for children and adolescents).

  • Making physical activity a part of children's regular routine and playtime.

  • Creating community environments that promote physical activity by providing sidewalks, biking and jogging trails, public recreation centers, etc.

  • Reducing time engaged in sedentary activities such as watching television.

  • Creating more opportunities for physical activity at worksites (providing onsite exercise facilities, allowing ample time for walking during lunch and other breaks, etc) .

  • Making healthy personal food choices including at east 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, 6 servings of grains daily (including whole grains), limiting unhealthy fats and sugars, and eating reasonable portion sizes.

  • Promoting healthy food choices at home, in schools, at worksites, and in communities.

Overweight and obesity come at a high cost. There are 300,000 deaths in the United States each year associated with obesity. Overweight and obesity increase the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, stroke, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems, and psychological disorders, such as depression. The economic cost of obesity in the U.S. was about $117 billion in 2000.1 


1. The Surgeon General's Call To Action to Prevent and Decrease Overweight and Obesity 2001

Overweight and obesity are generally determined by body mass index (BMI).  BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height.  Although BMI may be an inaccurate measurement for people with a muscular build, it correlates well with total body fat for the majority of people.  The same BMI measurement is used for men and women.  


A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.  People with a BMI between 25.0 and 29.9 are overweight.  Those with a BMI of 30 or greater are obese.



BMI = (weight (lbs)/height (inches)2) x 703

Obesity Prevention Project


Obesity a common, serious, and costly public health problem is continually on the rise with about one in five of Coloradan adults ranking in obese. Here at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Prevention Services Division, we are committed to reducing the obesity rate in Colorado through health promotion, disease and injury prevention programs. In 2011, Gov. John Hickenlooper and  CDPHE named Obesity as one of Colorado’s 10 Winnable Battles. In efforts  to prioritize strategies, the PSD Obesity Prevention Project was created.


The purpose of the Obesity Prevention Project is to identify, select, and prioritize evidence-based strategies for reducing and preventing obesity. Through extensive literature reviews and close examination of the state role, identifying existing partnerships and resources, and assessment of the political will to succeed, Colorado narrowed down 12 key strategies to combat obesity.


The CDPHE's PSD Colorado Obesity Prevention Project Worksite, will direct prevention resources, tools, strategies, and communication towards a core and consistent set of priorities to prevent and reduce obesity in Colorado.

Healthy People 2020, a statement of national health objectives designed to identify the most significant preventable threats to health and to establish national goals to reduce these threats, has set objectives to reduce overweight and obesity in the United States.


  • Increase the proportion of adults who are at a healthy weight to 33.9 percent by 2020.

  • Reduce the proportion of adults who are obese to 30.5 percent by 2020

Information for Providers


This section is currently under construction. Check back for updates soon!


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