LOS ANGELES, Calif., - New survey results released by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) reveal that the prevalence of adult obesity is still rising, with one in five adults in the county now obese. The average adult gained 6 lbs from 1997 to 2005, collectively making Los Angeles County 44 million pounds heavier.
Obesity is defined as a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater.
In this eight-year period, the prevalence of adult obesity in the county increased from 14% to 21%. By 2010, this rate is predicted to reach 25%, or one out of every four adults in Los Angeles county. If this trend continues, the ill health effects of obesity and diabetes may start to decrease life expectancy for the first time in 200 years.
Even more alarming is the rapid increase in overweight among children, with recent data from the California Physical Fitness Testing Program showing the prevalence of childhood overweight increasing unchecked among 5th, 7th, and 9th graders in Los Angeles County public schools, rising from 18% in 1999 to 22% in 2003.
"Obesity increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease," said Jonathan Fielding, M.D., M.P.H, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "But the obesity epidemic is not only costing us in terms of health. It also accounts for nearly $4 billion in health care expenditures each year in Los Angeles County."
Adult obesity rates were also found to be increasing faster among some groups than others. From 1997 to 2005, obesity rates were highest among Blacks (27.7%) and Latinos (28.7%), compared with Whites (16.6%) and Asians (6.0%). Families with lowest incomes are also at greater risk for obesity.
Fielding also emphasized the importance of preventing obesity early, since children who are overweight are more likely to be overweight as adults.
Healthy Living Forum
To address the obesity epidemic, DHS, the City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are participating in the first ever "Leadership for Healthy Living Forum" in Elysian Park.
"I celebrate this opportunity to partner with the City and the County to coordinate our work to make Los Angeles a healthier place" said Marlene Canter, LAUSD Board President.
By working together, the government and education entities aim to identify policies and creative solutions to this public health problem and combat the trend of obesity extending from childhood to adulthood. Los Angeles Councilmember Alex Padilla explained, "As policymakers, it is critical that we realize how our daily decisions impact the lives of our residents."
Individuals and families can also do their part to help fight obesity every day. Recommendations for healthier living include:
- Get 30-60 minutes of moderate physical activity everyday, such as walking, swimming, biking, dancing, or gardening.
- Start your day with a healthy breakfast and eat meals with your kids.
- Read food labels and buy foods that are low in fat, cholesterol, and salt, and high in fiber.
- Reduce intake of sodas and fruit juice drinks. If you drink milk, switch to low-fat or non-fat milk.
- Limit TV and video games to less than 2 hours a day and avoid eating in front of the TV.
- Eat 2 cups of fruit, 2 ½ cups of vegetables and 3 servings of whole grain each day.
For more information on the survey results please call (213) 240-7785 or for information about nutrition programs in L.A. County, please call (213) 351-7889 or visit www.ladhs.org.
About Public Health
Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 3,800 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $600 million.