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Multnomah County Health Department

Community Health Promotion, Partnerships and Planning

Office of Health Assessment And Evaluation

Community Health Assessment Quarterly

Volume 3, Issue 3 Fall 2008

Overweight and Obesity

Over the past 25 years the proportion of overweight creased productivity, restricted activity, absenteeism, and
and obese persons in this country increased steadily in the value of future income lost by premature death.
all states, but in recent years this number appears to
have leveled off. In 2007, 26% of adult Americans over
the age of 18 years were obese and an additional 37% Over half the adults in Multnomah County
were overweight1. The Healthy People 2010 target for are either overweight or obese.
obesity is a prevalence of 15% or less.2
Individuals who are overweight or obese are at in- Since the early 1990s there has been a steady rise
creased risk for a number of chronic diseases including in the total proportion of obese and overweight adults in
type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, coro- Multnomah County (body mass index greater than 25).
nary heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer In 2006, 53% of residents over the age of 18
(e.g. breast and colon cancer). These health problems (approximately 239,000 adults) in the county were either
will have an adverse impact on quality of life and in- overweight or obese. The prevalence of obesity has
crease the risk of premature mortality. In economic been rising since the early 1990s while the overweight
terms, it is estimated that in Oregon in 1998-2000 obe- prevalence has remained relatively stable.
sity and overweight and the associated health problems In 2006, the overall proportion of overweight and
cost $781 million in direct and indirect medical costs.3 obese adults in Oregon and the U.S. was 61% and 63%
This includes preventive, diagnostic, and treatment ser- respectively.
vices related to obesity as well as income lost from de-

Obesity and overweight defined Overw eight and Obesity Prevalence in Multnom ah County Adults
60% 1993-2006
In this report obesity and over-
weight in adults are defined by
body mass index (BMI) which is 50%
calculated using a person’s height
and weight. Healthy weight is 40%
defined as a BMI between 18.5 32%
and 24.9. Overweight is defined
as a BMI between 25 and 29.9.
An adult is considered obese if his 21%
or her BMI is greater than 30. 20%
Data on height and weight are 10%
collected at the county level
through a telephone survey of a
sample of Multnomah County 0%
residents. The survey is called 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
the Behavioral Risk Factor Sur-
Total Overweight/Obese BMI>=25
veillance System (BRFSS). Overweight (BMI >=25 and < 30)
Obese (BMI >= 30)
Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

Males and older adults are more likely to be overweight or obese in Multnomah County
In 2006, approximately 61% of adult males were overweight or obese (40% overweight, 21% obese) compared with
44% of adult females (26% overweight, 19% obese). The occurrence of overweight and obesity also differs by age
group. Adults between the ages of 55 and 74 years were more likely to be overweight or obese (almost 70% were
either overweight or obese) while 18 to 34 year-olds were less likely to be over a healthy weight (47% overweight or

Overweight and obesity by gender, Overweight and obesity by age-group,

80% Multnomah County, 2006 80% Multnomah County, 2006
70% Obese 70%
60% 60%
27% 26%
50% 21%
50% 21%
40% 13%
40% 20%
20% 40% 42% 43%
40% 35% 35%
20% 27%
26% 10%
0% 18-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75+ yrs
Male Female yrs yrs yrs yrs yrs

Adults 45 years and older who are over the Prevalence of High Blood Pressure & High
healthy weight range are more likely to suf- Cholesterol by Weight in Adults 45 years and
fer from diabetes, high blood pressure and older, Multnomah County, 2002-05
high cholesterol
60% High Blood Pressure High Cholesterol
Analysis of data for 2002 through 2005 for Multnomah
County shows that chronic diseases including diabetes, 50%
high blood pressure and high cholesterol are associated
with overweight and obesity in adults 45 years and older. 40%
One out of four obese adults in this age group were diag-
nosed with diabetes. Further, over a third of overweight 30%
adults and about half of obese adults in this age group 49% 46%
were diagnosed with high blood pressure while 46% of 36% 35%
overweight adults and 55% of obese adults were diag- 23%
nosed with high cholesterol. Obese and overweight
adults are also at greater risk for coronary heart disease. 0%

Healthy weight Overweight Obese

Some ethnic and racial groups have a
higher proportion of persons who are over- various racial and ethnic groups in Multnomah County
weight or obese did not always reflect national data. Some of the more
notable differences are as follow:
Data from the 2004-05 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveil-
lance System (BRFSS) show disparities in the preva- • The prevalence of obesity in Multnomah County in
lence of overweight and obesity among adults in Mult- 2004-05 among African Americans was lower than
nomah County. Asian Americans had the lowest propor- the prevalence in the same population nationwide
tion of overweight and obesity while those identifying in 2005 ( 28% countywide vs. 34% nationally);
themselves as Native Americans/Alaska Natives or His-
panics had the highest proportions of overweight and • The proportion of Asian Americans who were
obesity. The prevalence of obesity and overweight in obese was higher in Multnomah County in 2004-05
compared with the same population nationwide;

• The proportion of obese Hispanic residents in Mult- Public Health efforts to combat overweight
nomah County in 2004-05 was higher than the pro- and obesity include actions focused on in-
portion in the same population nationwide in 2005
(30% countywide vs. 24% nationally ).
dividuals and the social environment
Public health education efforts at national, state, and
local levels have encouraged individuals to increase
their intake of fruits and vegetables and to adopt an
Most adults do not meet nutrition and physi- exercise regimen that meets the Centers for Disease
cal activity recommendations Control and Preventions (CDC) recommendation of 30
minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the
The most important factors in maintaining a healthy week. CDC’s website provides suggestions for ways to
weight are nutrition and physical activity. The BRFSS incorporate healthy diets and regular physical activity in
data for 2005 indicates that only 26% of overweight and our daily lives.6
27% of obese adults in Multnomah County met the rec-
ommended 5 daily servings of fruits and vegetables. In Other public health efforts focus on changing our living
comparison, over 31% of residents within the healthy environment, such as encouraging walking and bicy-
weight range met this nutritional recommendation. Re- cling friendly communities. Multnomah County Health
gardless of weight status, most of the survey respondents Department has adopted a chain restaurant nutrition
did not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vege- labeling policy that will require larger restaurant chains
tables. to list the nutritional content of their menu items. By
providing nutrition information to customers at the time
Multnomah County residents at a healthy weight were of ordering, restaurants will enable the public to make
more likely to meet recommendations for moderate or informed choices about what they eat. The rules to im-
vigorous physical activity than overweight and obese indi- plement this policy are expected to take effect in Janu-
viduals. In 2005, 48% of those in the healthy weight ary 2009. Multnomah County became the fifth jurisdic-
range met the physical activity recommendation while tion in the United States to adopt menu labeling require-
only 32% of overweight individuals and 17% of obese in- ments. Similar laws are already in effect in New York
dividuals met the recommendation. City, San Francisco, and Seattle/King County.

Overweight youth are also a concern

According to data from the 2005-06 Oregon Healthy Teen Healthy weight in 8th and 11th graders
survey, about 10% of Multnomah County 8th grade and Multnomah County 2005-06 and Oregon
11th grade students were overweight. An additional 15% 2006
of 8th graders and 13% of 11th graders were at risk for 80%
becoming overweight.5 The county and statewide preva- 70%
lence of overweight youth and those at risk of becoming
overweight are very similar.
When asked about soda consumption, 84% of 8th grad- 40% 77%
74% 74% 75%
ers and 78% of 11th grade students reported that they
had consumed a soft drink at least once during the previ-
ous week; approximately 10% of students in both grades 20%
10% 26% 23% 26% 25%
had consumed a soda at least once a day during the pre-
vious week. 0%
8th grade 11th grade 8th grade 11th grade
During the same period, 55% of 8th graders and 40% of
11th graders reported engaging in 60 minutes of physical Multnomah County Oregon
activity on 5 or more days in the previous week (the rec-
ommended amount of activity for adolescents). Compara- Healthy weight Overweight & at risk for overweight
ble national data are available from a similar survey
known as the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) which Source: Oregon Healthy Teen survey, 2005-06
is administered to a sample of high school students. The
2007 YRBS data indicate that about 35% of students
meet the recommended level of physical activity nation-

1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk
Factor Surveillance System fact sheet on obesity prevalence in the United States in 2007. Online: Accessed on 09/15/2008.
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Healthy
People 2010. Online:
Accessed on 09/15/2008.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Overweight and
obesity. Online: Accessed on
4. Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, Center for Health Statistics. Behavioral Risk
Factor Surveillance System data for 1993 through 2006.
5. Oregon Department of Human Services, Public Health Division, Center for Health Statistics. Oregon Healthy
Teen 2007 tables. Online: Accessed on
6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Nutri-
tion and Physical Activity. Online: Accessed 09/15/2008.

Note: All graphs in this report are based on BRFSS data collected between 1993 and 2006 except as noted.

Community Health Assessment

Quarterly is published four times per year, by Multnomah County Health Department
Health Assessment and Evaluation Office
426 SW Stark St 9th Floor, Portland OR 97204. If you have questions or comments, please email Maya Bhat at
maya.bhat@ or by phone at 503-988-3663 x29055.
This publication is available online at: