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DHS news release

Aug. 23, 2005


Contact: Bonnie Widerburg (503) 731-4180

Program contact: Mel Kohn, M.D. (503) 731-4023


National report shows Oregon only state to remain steady in obesity fight



For 2002-2004, Oregon was the only state in the nation to hold the line in the battle against obesity, according to new health data compiled by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The finding was part of a report issued Tuesday by Trust for America's Health, a national advocacy group.


"It's good news that the obesity rate in Oregon has not increased," said Governor Ted Kulongoski. "This is a step in the right direction and we need to continue to encourage Oregonians to live healthier. This is the beginning of a healthier future for our state."


Nationally, the percentage of obese adults in 2002-04 was 22.7 percent, an increase from 2001-03, when it was 22 percent. Oregon's rate held steady at 21 percent.


Public health officials in the Oregon Department of Human Services say it's difficult to point to a single factor that would dramatically change the state's rate and they caution that it's too early to say if this reflects a trend that will be more long lasting.


Mel Kohn, M.D., state epidemiologist, said the roots of this problem are conditions in communities that make it hard for people to be physically active and make healthy eating choices. Examples of broad improvements that could have a positive influence include neighborhoods and communities that are designed for safe walking and bicycle travel, and schools and businesses that offer healthy eating choices.


"The fix for this will require sustained involvement from a wide array of community partners," Kohn said.


Some communities have already taken positive steps in this direction. DHS has provided training for multidisciplinary teams from about half of Oregon's counties over the past two years, and those teams are working with other local partners developing prevention activities tailored to their communities, according to Kohn.


Promising strategies for addressing physical inactivity and unhealthy eating in Oregon are described in two plans that were created by an array of organizations and agencies. The plans, released by DHS in 2003, are available on the Web at the DHS Physical Activity and Nutrition site.