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New Obesity Data for Colorado: The Good, The Bad and The (Slightly) Complicated

One in five Coloradans were obese in 2011, according to new prevalence rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Good: What’s good about 20.7 percent of Coloradans being obese? Well, Colorado is still the leanest state in the nation.  Compare that with Mississippi or Louisiana (34.9 and 33.4 percent, respectively).  But the good news for all of us is that updated information is available to inform efforts to tackle this problem. 

The Bad: Obesity is a serious health issue impacting 20.7 percent—over one million—Coloradans.  This figure includes only individuals with a body mass index (height to weight ratio) of 30 or greater.

The (Slightly) Complicated: With new estimates come logical questions about how the new data compares to data from previous years. These new estimates are different: data collected in 2011 used new methodology. For the first time, the CDC incorporated responses from individuals who didn’t have a landline—“cell-only” in survey-speak. In addition, they used a technique called “raking.” No, we’re not talking about one of your favorite autumn activities, but rather a new method of weighting the data. To learn more about the improved methodology used in this year’s survey, check out the CDC’s fact sheet.

While the changed methodology may mean the data better reflect the population and provide a solid baseline for future comparisons, it also means they cannot be compared with estimates from previous years in a meaningful way—which complicates things, but only slightly, as Colorado’s obesity rate did not change drastically under the new methodology. Under the previous methodology, Colorado’s obesity rate crossed the 20 percent threshold for the first time in 2010.

Many tools measure obesity rates using different methods and sources. Using the right resource to monitor and compare rates as well as evaluate interventions can be difficult. CHI will be tracking, and making sense of, these complications to support the efforts of those who are tracking, making sense of and working to address, the 20.7 percent.

Sara Schmitt is the director of community health policy at CHI.