Healthy Coloradans

The 2012 Colorado Health Report Card was released last week. The Report Card tracks 38 health indicators across five life stages to provide a snapshot of Coloradans’ state of health. This year’s picture is not as promising as might be expected from the healthiest state in the nation.

“Even in the areas where we are doing ‘well’ compared to the rest of the country, some troubling trends loom on the horizon,” the report states. “Putting (adult obesity) figures in perspective, Colorado currently may be the leanest state, but if we reported those numbers in 1995, we’d be the heaviest.” The picture is particularly dim in the areas of prenatal care and childhood health, and leads me to reflect on my eight-year old’s most recent pediatric wellness visit.

The pediatrician spent some time reviewing G’s growth chart, and then announced that her weight-to-height ratio was “optimal.” He said so twice.
Why the emphasis, I asked?
He responded that slender eight-year olds are far less common in the U.S. than they used to be and because of that Americans are inclined to perceive wiry pre-teens as underweight. He added, “I want you to have this in your mind because people are going to tell you that she’s too thin. The reality is that she does not need to gain weight. Her weight is ideal and I want you to feel very secure about that.”

I wasn’t concerned about G’s weight, but I did appreciate the pediatrician’s perspective. It’s interesting, isn’t it, how we’re subtly influenced by our surroundings? The conversation reminded me of LiveWell Colorado’s 2011 obesity awakening campaign which sought to re-set Coloradans’ perception of what constitutes a healthy weight. The campaign’s  obesity quiz caught my attention when I scored poorly on it, failing to correctly identify a featured actor as “overweight.”

BMI Visualizer

Another helpful tool in this vein is the BMI Visualizer (above), created by the Perceiving Systems Department at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems. It’s deceptively simple: you input your gender, age, height and weight, and the “visualizer” calculates your BMI and generates a 3D Model to help you see the relationship of BMI to body shape, and what you would look like if you lost (or gained) weight.

I’m relieved that Colorado is embracing the spirit of our title as the “healthiest state” and am excited about the role will surely play in helping us get there.

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