Improving the health of Coloradans, including preventing and reducing obesity, could lead to a more economically competitive Colorado.

This is a message that comes through loud and clear in the newly released 2012 Colorado Health Report Card and its related supplement, Keeping Colorado Competitive: Roadmap to a Healthier, More Productive Workforce

Produced by our partner and funder, the Colorado Health Foundation, the Report Card assesses 38 health indicators across five life stages: Healthy Beginnings, Healthy Children, Healthy Adolescents, Healthy Adults, and Healthy Aging. According to the report, Colorado remains the leanest state for adults with an obesity rate of 20.9 percent while our children rank 23rd.

Clearly, we must improve this ranking for our children who represent the future of our state. And, we must not be fooled by our top position for adults. In fact, our current adult obesity rate of 20.9 percent, which makes us the leanest state today, would have made us the most obese state in 1995. The alarming obesity rates for both our children and adults are contributing to numerous negative effects on our state, including significant burdens on employers and companies.  

From increased healthcare costs to higher rates of employee absenteeism, obesity affects the well-being and prosperity of the companies and organizations that help drive our state’s economy.

Here’s a quick look at some of the compelling statistics from the supplement:

  • When factoring in medical costs, absenteeism and presenteeism, the cost of obesity among full-time U.S. Employees is estimated to be $73.1 billion.
  • Health care costs for obese employees were 27.4 percent higher than those of a normal weight, according to a 2012 study in the journal Health Affairs. On average, obese employees incurred $1,091 in additional costs per year.
  • If Colorado’s adult obesity rate returned to 1996 levels, Colorado employers and employees could save an estimated $228.9 million annually in health care costs.
  • If Colorado were No. 1 in childhood obesity, Colorado employers could save an estimated $38.4 million annually in health care costs.

It’s undeniable that addressing our state’s obesity epidemic is critical to both our physical and fiscal health.

I encourage you to read the Report Card and supplement to learn more. In addition, you can visit our new LiveWell@Work toolbox, which provides ideas and resources to facilitate access to healthy eating and physical activity at the workplace. After all, making the healthy choice the easy choice at work is an important part of improving the health of our state, addressing the obesity epidemic and keeping Colorado competitive.