Heavy in Findings, Study Warns Coloradans To Shape Up

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March 20, 2011; Source: Denver Post | The Colorado Health Foundation doesn't like the shape of the state's future. Literally. According to findings from its 2010 Colorado Health Report Card, released last week, the state is on a path to lose its bragging rights as the only one in the nation with an obesity rate under 20 percent.

Writing in the Denver Post, Anne Warhover, president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation, says that "distinction becomes more dubious with each passing year as statistics show adult Coloradans are getting heavier along with the rest of the country." She also notes that the study shows that not all of Colorado's children are in the pink of health. Some 14 percent of Colorado children are rated obese — ranking it No. 23 among states.

But other grim findings, says Warhover, suggest there's even more to be concerned about. "The Report Card shows that . . . Colorado lags far behind in prenatal health (No. 34); adults without insurance coverage (No. 30); and dental care for children (No. 38)." Warhover says the point in issuing the report card, along with its partner the Colorado Health Institute, wasn't meant to scold state residents. Instead, it is "to use data to evaluate objectively where Colorado succeeds and where it falls short so we can improve the overall health of our citizens."

She notes that for its part, the foundation made 306 grants to 227 organizations, totaling more than $88 million in 2009. That money went to support efforts to help make Colorado residents healthier, especially those living in communities where lifestyles and limited access to quality pose the greatest long-term risks. Grants were used to strengthen safety net clinics, build school-based health centers, promote healthy food and physical activity in schools, and support a program that covers the costs of student loans for health professionals in exchange for practicing in underserved communities.

As with any report card, Warhover is hopeful that past performance isn't necessarily a definitive indicator of future results. That's why, despite her concerns, she also writes that: "With innovative statewide initiatives and federal support, Colorado can move from being a gifted student with below-average grades to head of the class." Now that would be something to brag about.—Bruce Trachtenberg