Colorado childhood obesity rates unchanged in past decade

David Brendsel, Prevention Services Communications| 303-692-2156 |
Unless the state’s stagnant childhood obesity rate begins to decline, the next generation of Coloradans may not be the leanest in the nation. Childhood obesity rates increased dramatically across the nation from the 1970s through the 1990s, but have recently begun to level off. According to the Colorado Child Health Survey, the state’s childhood obesity rate was 14.8 percent in 2004 and 14.6 percent in 2014.
“If Colorado wants to remain the leanest state in the nation and become the healthiest, we need to start with our youngest residents,” said Dr. Larry Wolk, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Fortunately, we have dedicated parents and partners across Colorado who are working with us to make sure Colorado kids can get the nutritious food and physical activity they need.”
Childhood obesity increases the risk for high blood pressure, breathing problems, and joint and muscle pain. Obese children are more likely to become obese adults and face increased risk for heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
Healthy eating and active living can reduce the risk for childhood obesity. Based on the best evidence, health experts recommend that each day children get at least one hour of physical activity, at least two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables, two hours or fewer of screen time, few or no sugar-sweetened beverages and nine to 12 hours of sleep, depending on age.
“Childhood obesity can be prevented. We know healthy behaviors and the environment are strong predictors of health outcomes,” noted Khanh Nguyen, portfolio director, Healthy Living at the Colorado Health Foundation. “There is momentum across the state's rural, urban and suburban communities and in the private, nonprofit and public sectors. Let’s embrace the pioneering spirit of Colorado, and together, we can create an environment where Colorado’s children are eating healthier and moving more, which will pay dividends in the future.”
Parents have the power to change the trajectory of obesity in Colorado by modeling healthy behavior for their children. Research shows children who got the recommended amount of physical activity, ate fruits and vegetables every day and limited their sugary drinks lived with a parent who did the same. Parents can influence their child’s healthy development at every stage of life.
  • Pregnancy: Nearly half of Colorado women are overweight or obese before they become pregnant. Gaining and maintaining the right amount of weight during pregnancy improves the chances of a baby being born at a healthy weight.
  • Infants: Six of 10 Colorado moms breastfeed for the first six months of a baby’s life as recommended. Feeding babies only breast milk, even by bottle, for the first six months reduces the likelihood of obesity in childhood and throughout their adult lives.
  • Toddlers: Nearly a third of children aged 2 to 4 are overweight or obese. Parents who introduce their children to a variety of whole grains, lean meat and beans, fruits and vegetables, and drinks without added sugar can protect their children from obesity and related health problems.
  • Children: More than one in four children aged 5 to 11 are overweight or obese. Parents who limit their children’s “screen time,” make sure they get enough sleep and help ensure they have nutritious food and opportunities for physical activity at home and school can protect them from obesity throughout childhood and beyond.  
State and local health departments are working with partners across Colorado to support healthy families and reduce childhood obesity with these approaches:
  • Priority: Preventing obesity is a Winnable Battle for the state health department and listed as a priority for local health departments covering more than 50 of Colorado’s 64 counties.
  • Breastfeeding: The health department works with hospitals across Colorado to support healthy breastfeeding policies, practices and resources.
  • Nutrition assistance and education: The health department provides food assistance and nutrition education for low-income mothers, infants and children through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and for child care providers through the Child and Adult Care Food Program.
  • Hospitals: The Colorado Healthy Hospital Compact is a collaborative effort with state and local health departments and hospitals striving to provide healthy food and drinks for patients, visitors and hospital staff and promoting breastfeeding.
  • Physical activity: The health department implements the “I am Moving, I am Learning” program to provide free training to day care providers who want to incorporate physical activity into their centers.
  • Healthy Living: The Colorado Health Foundation works to ensure every kid in Colorado has the opportunity to eat healthy meals and engage in physical activity. The foundation partners with nonprofits, health care leaders, policy makers, educators and the private sector to help children get a healthy start in life and create healthy schools and communities.
  • School food: LiveWell Colorado’s School Food Initiative addresses the pressing challenges school districts face in delivering fresh and wholesome food to children. By providing hands-on culinary training, marketing support, operations and fiscal technical assistance to food service teams, the initiative increases the capacity of districts to contribute to improved health outcomes for children.
  • School health and wellness: The Colorado Education Initiative is working with schools and education leaders across the state to create healthy and engaging environments for children and staff. Schools can participate in a new assessment tool, Colorado Healthy Schools Smart Source, to assist with evaluation of best practices and \compare their policies with those of schools across the state.
  • Fresh, local produce: The Farm to School Task Force works with public and private partners and schools across Colorado to increase access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.
September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.