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DOH Report Finds More Than 20 Percent of Adults Are Obese

Saturday, May 1, 2010
Report examines the causes of obesity in the District for youth and adults.

Washington, DC – The DC Department of Health (DOH) released Obesity in the District of Columbia (The Report), the first comprehensive report looking at obesity and factors that contributed to obesity in the District.  The Report is part of DOH’s ongoing effort to increase awareness of and reduce the number of residents who are considered overweight or obese, as well as those with chronic health conditions often connected to overweight and obesity. Approximately 22% of adults in the District are obese as well as 17.8 % of high school students. Poor diet and physical inactivity, two major contributors to obesity, combine to be the second most common preventable cause of death in the District, accounting for 15 % of all deaths in 2007.

For The Report, DOH staff used the 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) which is the most recent survey of District residents’ health and health behaviors. The Report’s assessment of obesity rates includes data on income, diet and nutrition, gender, race, crime, access to and types of food options and demographic information for each of the city’s eight wards. For the Children and Adolescent Obesity section of the report, Youth Behavior Risk Survey (YBRS) data from 2007 was used. Additional data is further broken down by Advisory Neighborhood Council (ANC) districts. Creating a comprehensive report allows DOH, residents and community groups to understand factors that contribute to the District’s obesity rate and begin to find solutions to address the problem.

“As a nation, we need to do more to combat obesity, and the data from our Preventable Cause of Death report clearly shows that poor nutrition and a lack of regular physical activity present significant threats to our health,” said Dr. Pierre Vigilance, Director of DOH. “Understanding what puts us at risk for illness here in DC, gives us the opportunity to have local impact as we seek to influence changes in our diets and level of physical activity.  This is the only way we can have significant impact on the prevalence of diseases like diabetes, hypertension and stroke which account for more than half of the deaths in the District.”

Citywide Obesity Findings

  • Women, at 25.1%, are more likely to be obese than men, 18.9% of whom are obese.
  • The likelihood that a person will be obese is inversely correlated to the amount of education they have.
  • The likelihood that a person will be obese is inversely correlated to their income.
  • African Americans had higher rates of obesity than other racial and ethnic groups
  • Residents with diabetes and high blood pressure have high rates of obesity
  • Residents who ate 5 or more fruits or vegetables daily were less likely to be overweight or obese.
  • The wards with the most grocery stores, organic food and farmers markets, Wards 2 and 3, had the lowest rates of obesity; Ward 8 had the fewest healthy food options and had the highest rate of obesity.

Youth Obesity Findings

  • High school aged boys were more likely to be obese, at 19% than their female counterparts, 15.8% of whom were obese
  • 30% of high school aged youth get the recommended 60 minutes of exercise 5 days of the week.
  • Rates of obesity have increased over a 5 year period from 2003 -2007 for high school aged youth.
  • Rates of physical activity as well as fruit and vegetable consumption decreased over a five year period from 2003-2007 for high school aged youth.
  • Good nutrition standards in schools may be undone by easily accessible unhealthy food surrounding schools.

This spring DOH will release the first District of Columbia Overweight and Obesity Action Plan to help address many of the health issues outlined in The Report. The Action Plan will incorporate data from The Report as well as input from the community to create a comprehensive response to this public health threat.

Obesity in the District of Columbia is part of DOH’s Live Well DC initiative, an interagency effort to create a holistic approach to health and wellness for the District, by targeting individual behaviors that result in poor health outcomes across the District, and influence changes in policy that affect the most commonly preventable causes of death. As part of Live Well DC, DOH will continue to release data and information, through reports and public education campaigns, to encourage and empower residents to make smart choices about their health. 

To read The Report in its entirety, select Obesity in the District of Columbia.