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With Colorado’s childhood obesity levels rising at the second fastest rate in the nation, we’ll certainly be knocked out of the leanest adult position soon enough.

Last month our funder and partner, The Colorado Health Foundation, released its 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, which analyzes and grades Colorado on contributors to the overall health of our state.  Once again, adult obesity was highlighted as a positive benchmark, since we’re still ranked as the leanest state in the nation with an obesity rate of 19.1%.  But childhood obesity was a strong contributor to the “D+” rating given to the “Healthy Children” category, with Colorado ranked 23rd in the country in childhood obesity.  That’s a steep drop from 3rd place just three years ago. 

The Health Report Card this year made the case how our state’s health is inextricably linked to our state’s economic health.  It makes perfect sense that a healthy population is more productive, gives us a competitive advantage, and attracts more business to our state.  This correlates to obesity as well.  Consider that obese individuals are 75% more likely to experience absenteeism, pay 36% more for health care and 77% more for medication than healthy weight employees. In Colorado we spend $847 million on obesity-related medical costs each year.  So we should be particularly concerned that Colorado’s future workforce‚Äîour children‚Äîare fairing so poorly on key health indicators, especially obesity. 

It’s easy to blame our health status and obesity rates on the current poor state of our economy‚Äîpeople with lower education and economic status do have less access to healthy foods and safe and ample environments for physical activity.  However, the economic development experts on the panel at the Health Report Card presentation challenged us to think about how health can actually be a positive driver for our economy-lowering costs, raising productivity and new business appeal. 

Obesity weighs on all of us, and our economy is no exception.  At LiveWell Colorado, we’ll continue to engage all sectors of our society to fight obesity and to make Colorado the healthiest state in more ways than one.