In 2020, the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data showed that 27% of Vermont adults age 20 and older are obese. This is a slight drop from 2018, when the prevalence was 29%, however the difference is not statistically significant. We know that obesity prevalence rises with age, and that adults with a high school education or less and a lower income are more likely to be obese.
Obesity has always been a major health concern due to its connection to many chronic diseases. Heart disease, diabetes and many forms of cancer are linked to obesity. In Vermont, we see high rates of these diseases and see the linkage between health behaviors such as getting the recommended amount of physical activity and eating a healthy diet (as well as tobacco use). Together with lung disease, these chronic diseases were the cause of 53% of deaths in Vermont in 2016. This has led us to organizing our work to highlight these preventable diseases through 3-4-50 (see Strategies below for more information).
We now also know that those with obesity and chronic diseases are at higher risk for COVID-19 complications. Vermonters with chronic diseases are hospitalized with COVID-19 at a higher rate than people without chronic diseases. It is more important than ever to work to reduce obesity rates in Vermont, so that Vermonters live healthier lives and have better outcomes even if they have COVID-19.
The American Medical Association declared obesity a disease in 2013. Healthy Vermonters 2020 includes a goal of lowering adult obesity rates in Vermont to 20% by 2020. We monitor obesity rates because of obesity’s impact on many chronic diseases. Understanding the rates of obesity in Vermont provides context for what strategies are needed to lower the rates.
There are several evidence-based strategies that can be used to improve the prevalence of obesity that change the environment or policies to make the healthy choice the easy choice. These include, Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) for farmers markets and other food access programs, healthy community design, and worksite wellness programs. More information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Three health behaviors: poor diet, lack of physical activity and tobacco use; lead to four chronic diseases: heart disease, lung disease, some cancers and diabetes; which cause over 50% of deaths in Vermont. 3-4-50 is a framework that helps shine a light on preventable chronic disease to both start a conversation about how to encourage Vermonters to make healthier choices and provide concrete, no/low-cost strategies for partners to implement. We are working with communities, schools, worksites and childcare programs, providing tips on working with people in their organization or under their care to help them with healthy choices. These organizations can also “sign on” to 3-4-50, by making a commitment to continue this work. Examples include municipalities committing to healthy community design plans, and worksites, schools and childcare programs developing policies to support healthy eating and physical activity during the work and school day.
This indicator is age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. standard population. In U.S. data, age adjustment is used for comparison of regions with varying age breakdowns. In cases where age adjustment was noted as being part of the statistical analysis, the estimates were adjusted based on the proportional age breakdowns of the U.S. population in 2000. For more detailed information on age adjustment read the CDC's Statistical Notes. These data are limited to adults 20 years of age and older as those younger than 20 are generally not yet fully developed and tend to have more weight variability than older adults and are therefore excluded from this measure, following the guidelines of Healthy People 2020.
Due to BRFSS weighting methodology changes beginning in 2011, comparisons between data collected in 2011 and later and that from 2010 and earlier should be made with caution. Differences between data from 2011 forward and earlier years may be due to methodological changes, rather than changes in opinion or behavior.