According to the 2011-2016 Nebraska Physical Activity and Nutrition State Plan, (3) “obesity and chronic diseases – such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke – are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems in Nebraska and throughout the United States.” Despite state- and nation-wide efforts to decrease the rate of obesity in America, it continues to rise. The obesity rate in Nebraska has increased from 20.1% in 2000 to 30.3% in 2014, making it the state with the 20th highest adult obesity rate in the nation. (4)
Obesity is a risk factor for a myriad of chronic diseases and other serious health problems. Additionally, the burden of obesity is not only on an individual’s health and overall quality of life, but also on families and society as a whole. (5) It has a significant impact on the economy – especially with regards to health care cost and productivity. (6) An annual estimation of obesity-attributable expenditures found that the condition cost the state of Nebraska 1.2 billion dollars in 2009. (7) As seen in Table 1, the obesity rate of adults in the Panhandle is much higher than that of the state average in 2014.
Table 1: Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity among Adults (2014)
Obese Adults (BMI ≥ 30)
Overweight or Obese (BMI ≥ 25)
Source: Nebraska Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 2014
Areas of focus for this health priority are healthy eating, physical activity, and breastfeeding. These areas are in alignment with the areas of focus of the 2011-2016 Nebraska Physical Activity and Nutrition State Plan.
The primary cause of obesity and overweight is an energy imbalance, with more calories being consumed than those being expended. This is due to an increased intake of unhealthy, energy dense foods, and a decrease in physical activity due to more sedentary forms of work and transportation. (8) Overweight and obesity can be reduced through limiting consumption of fat and sugar, increasing consumption of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, and increasing physical activity. (8) Additionally, recent research indicates that breastfeeding may protect against various health issues including obesity. (9)