Thursday, June 23, 2011

Obesity rate is ballooning

By TYLER KULA, The Observer

Lambton County's obesity rate is slightly below the Canadian average, according to a new report.

Obesity in Canada, released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), says 25% of adults are obese, based on height and weight data from 2007-2009.

In Lambton County the obesity rate for adults is 22%, up from 15% in 2003.

Canadian obesity rates have more than doubled for men and women since 1981, the 54-page report says.

"As our population gains weight and becomes obese, the incidence of type two diabetes, heart disease, stroke, some types of cancers are also increasing, therefore increasing the cost of the medical system to deal with those chronic illnesses," said Connie Mallette, a registered dietitian with Lambton County.

The CIHI-PHAC report says obesity cost the Canadian economy $4.6 billion to $7.1 billion in 2008, up from $3.9 billion in 2000.

Physical inactivity is the strongest indicator of obesity, the report says, but lifestyle factors don't account for everything.

Women in higher income brackets were significantly less likely to be obese than those with lower incomes — a difference not found for men.

There's no data to compare locally, said Lambton epidemiologist Crystal Palleschi. But studies from Statistics Canada have similar findings, she said.

The CIHI-PHAC study also points to higher obesity rates among aboriginal people. A 2002/03 study found 36% of on-reserve adults were obese.

A recently-released Health Sarnia-Lambton Community Picture report says 4.6% of Lambton County's population is aboriginal, compared to a provincial average of 2%.

Canadian obesity rates vary dramatically — from 5.3% in Richmond, B.C., to 35.9% in the Mamawetan/Keewatin/Athabasca region of Saskatchewan.

Addressing health services for individuals, implementing community-level strategies for individuals and groups, and developing public policies are aspects of developing a multifaceted, long-term approach for obesity prevention, the study says.

Locally, the Health Community Picture report recommends establishing transportation policies that increase access to healthy food — one of six recommendations addressing smoking, healthy eating, physical activity, mental health, alcohol and substance abuse, and injury prevention.


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