by Kathleen Ryan
DENVER – Colorado may be the leanest and most active state in the nation, but a study released today finds room for improvement in the state’s overall health.
While adult Coloradans are physically fit, according to the Colorado Health Report Card, the state lags behind the rest of the nation in many other health indicators. Colorado is among the worst in the nation in several factors including healthy birth weight for babies, binge drinking in adults and mental health difficulties, the report said.
If Colorado were No. 1, said Shepard Nevel, vice president for policy and evaluation for the Colorado Health Foundation, the health picture would look vastly different.
“We can live up to what I think is how most Coloradans see ourselves as a physically fit state that really values fitness, health and wellness,” he said, “both for its economic benefits but also for its quality of life more generally.”
That includes some tangible benefits: more than 2,000 additional children born at a healthy weight, nearly 400,000 fewer binge-drinking adults and nearly 93,000 fewer people reporting poor mental health.
In some areas, such as childhood and adult obesity, the rates are creeping up, the report said. Adult Coloradans are more obese overall than those in the “fattest” state in the nation a decade ago.
Nevel said it’s a paradox.
“We have the lowest adult obesity rate, but we have one of the highest rates of increases of childhood obesity,” he said. “We know the kind of strategies that help bring the obesity rate down, access to healthy food and physical activity.”
Those strategies would save the state money. The report finds that just changing the state’s obesity rate to 1996 levels would save $229 million in health costs every year.
The full report is online at coloradohealthreportcard.org.