Promoting Healthy Weight
Why we care…
Obesity is a complex health problem that impacts one in four New Hampshire adults (26.2%). Obesity also increases the risk for developing many chronic diseases. New Hampshire ranks 19th in the nation for children aged 10-17 years who are obese (15.5%). Obesity during childhood is predictive of obesity later in life, and is of great concern.
Over the past 40 years, rates of obesity have doubled and in some cases tripled in our Upper Valley population, with over 33% of children and over 65% of adults currently considered to be at unhealthy weight, making it a critical issue in the region. Unhealthy weight has powerful effects on health (e.g., heart disease, high blood pressure, various cancers, muscular-skeletal injuries, etc.), with an estimated cost to NH of $320M each year in treatment of avoidable health care problems. In our communities, overweight and its core components, poor diet and sedentary lifestyles, are linked to absenteeism, presenteeism, increases in health insurance rates, barriers to maximizing learning in schools, socialization challenges, and poor self-image. The Upper Valley parallels the nation and state of NH relative to concerns of obesity and overweight. However, some data suggest that the percentage of our population with unhealthy weight grows as we move from Hanover outward to more rural communities, with 25-40% of children being considered overweight or obese.
Food Insecurity is another issue of concern and means that someone has difficulty accessing a reliable source of food. According to County Health Rankings, 10% of the populations of Grafton and Sullivan Counties experiences food insecurity. Food insecurity is connected to weight gain, premature mortality, and other chronic health conditions. The causes of food insecurity may be numerous and can include poverty, unemployment, lack of transportation, proximity to retail food outlets, and ability to access food assistance services. In the Upper Valley, most of our communities fall into lower risk categories; however, not all communities have ready access to retail food outlets or access to food assistance programs.
Public Health Council Goals for Promoting Healthy Weight
- Reduce the percentage of children that are overweight and obese from 31% (Grafton County) to 29% by 2020.
- Reduce the percentage of adults that are overweight and obese from 63% to 59% by 2020.
- Reduce household food insecurity from 10% to 5% by 2020.
Key Partners Working on these Goals
There is no shortage of partners to engage to address our Healthy Weighs and Active Living Goals. During 2016, the Public Health Council will work with these and other partners to develop a coordinated approach to sharing the work that needs to be done.
- Aging Resource Center at Dartmouth – Educational Programming
- Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth – Promotes 5-2-1-0 and pioneering the concept of Culinary Medicine
- D-H Live Well Work Well – Employee Wellness Programming
- D-H Weight and Wellness Center – Providing clinical services for achieving healthy weight and building connections to community resources
- Grafton County Senior Citizens Council – Meals on Wheels, Congregate Meals, exercise programs
- Health Promotion Research Center at Dartmouth – Conducting research to determine effective approaches to achieving health weight
- Hunger Free Vermont, Upper Valley Hunger Council
- Listen Community Services – Operates Food Pantries and Community Meals to support low-income and isolated residents of the Upper Valley.
- Municipal Recreation Departments
- Schools and School Nutrition Programs
- Upper Valley Haven – Serves low-income individuals and families with food, shelter, education, clothing, and other supports.
- Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission – Supporting community readiness assessments for safe and affordable physical activity;
- Upper Valley Recreation Association – Promoting walking programs and safe and affordable
- WIC Program, Belknap-Merrimack County Community Action Program
- Willing Hands – Redistributes healthy food, mostly fruits and vegetables, to people in need.