A new study published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has found that the prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States is significantly higher than among adults in Canada. In addition, over a 20-year period, the prevalence of obesity has increased at greater rates in the U.S. than in Canada, among both men and women.
In both countries, over this period, the highest obesity increases of women were among those aged 20 to 39, and the highest obesity increases of men were among those aged 60-74.
The study is based on data from the Canadian Health Measures Survey, 2007–2009; the Canadian Heart Health Surveys (CHHS), 1986–1992; and the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1988–1994 and 2007–2008.
Key findings, which are reported on the CDC’s website, include the following:
- In 2007–2009, the prevalence of obesity in the U.S. was 34.4%, over 10 percentage points higher than in Canada (24.1%);
- Among women, prevalence of obesity was more than 12 percentage points higher in the United States than in Canada (36.2% compared with 23.9%) during 2007-2009;
- Among men, the prevalence of obesity was over 8 percentage points higher in the United States than in Canada (32.6% compared with 24.3%) during the same period.
- Among the non-Hispanic white population, the prevalence of obesity is lower in Canada than in the United States, but the difference is not as large as it is when comparing the entire populations.
- When the 2007-2009 figures are compared to obesity prevalence estimates from the 1988–1994 U.S. NHANES and 1986–1992 Canadian CHHS data, it is clear that the prevalence of obesity rose significantly in both countries over the 20-year period since these earlier surveys, but at higher rates of increase in the United States:
- Among men, the prevalence of obesity rose over this period by approximately 10 percentage points in Canada and by 12 percentage points in the United States, as illustrated by Figure 3) in the CDC’s study;
- Among women, the increase in obesity was approximately 8 percentage points in Canada and approximately 10 percentage points in the United States. See Figure 4 of the CDC’s study;
- Among men in both countries, the increases in obesity over this 20-year period were highest among those aged 60–74: 17 percentage points increase in Canada and approximately 18 percentage points increase in the United States;
- Among women in both countries, the increases in obesity over this 20-year period were highest among those aged 20–39: 11 percentage points in Canada and over 13 percentage points in the United States.
The CDC observes that “Obesity is a public health challenge throughout the world. Ongoing monitoring of trends in obesity is important to assess interventions aimed at preventing or reducing the burden of obesity.”
Read the CDC Study report as a PDF document at » Adult Obesity Prevalence in Canada and the United States – NCHS Data Brief – Number 56 – March 2011.
Other studies have found that obesity has been identified as a risk factor for more than 20 different chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. According to these statistics, assembled by the U.S. Senate, DPC, these four diseases are among the five chronic diseases that cause 7 out of 10 deaths in the Unites States.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. In addition, 44% of the diabetes burden, 23% of the ischaemic heart disease burden and between 7% and 41% of certain cancer burdens are attributable to overweight and obesity.”
The costs of obesity, both in terms of needless human suffering and in terms of the preventable economic costs of health care arising from obesity, are enormous. According to the CDC, “The medical care costs of obesity in the United States are staggering. In 2008 dollars, these costs totaled about $147 billion.”
These significant individual health risks and national economic costs could be significantly reduced or prevented if overweight U.S. adults could be assisted to lose weight and maintain a normal body mass index and a healthy diet.
Clearly, in accessing needs for health care reform in the United States, and in allocating resources among preventive programs, addressing the obesity epidemic must be key among our priorities.
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