How fat are Portlanders? Here's the skinny

How fat are Portlanders? Here's the skinny

Want to know how the health of people in our region stacks up? Check out the data our partners at the Portland Business Journal compiled.

But not to keep you in suspense: About 34 percent of Multonomah County adults are overweight. The percentages in Clackamas and Washington counties are slightly higher, at about 36 and 37 percent respectively.

Vital Stats: See how Portlanders scored for exercise, nutrition and weight

These and other vital statistics are gathered on Healthy Columbia Willamette Collaborative’s website. Comprising 15 hospitals, two Coordinated Care Organizations, four county health departments and two states and two health plans, the collaborative has collected data for a regionwide health needs assessment.

We’ll be rolling out pieces of the assessment in coming weeks. Please refer to the organization’s website for all the reports, along with sources and background information on the initiative.

The health indicators we’re highlighting today cover exercise, nutrition and weight. One caveat: This particular data set isn’t up to the minute, but covers a time frame of 2006 to 2009. Data on Healthy Columbia Willamette’s site will continue to be updated as new reports come in.

So let’s look at more numbers, starting with adult fruit and vegetable consumption. Thirty percent of Multnomah County residents say they consume the recommended five servings a day. Sound high? Here’s another caveat on this particular survey: It’s self-reported.

“People tend to overestimate healthy behaviors and underestimate unhealthy,” said Kimberly Repp, an epidemiologist with Washington County Health and Human Services.

In terms of exercise, this indicator shows the percentage of adults who engage in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes five days a week, or vigorous activity for at least 20 minutes three or more days. Given that the national goal is to get to about 48 percent, we’re doing great: we’re at about 54 percent or greater around here.

“Oregon’s pretty active, so it’s not super surprising,” Repp said.

The three counties also are doing better than the national target on obesity, which is about 31 percent. The three counties are in the low 20s. There are higher percentages for overweight adults, in the mid-30s, and some of those people could shift to the obese category in coming years.

Low income preschool obesity, which is in the low-to-mid teens in the region, should also raise some alarms.

“We know from the literature that if a four year old is obese, they’re at an overwhelming risk of being obese as an adult,” Repp said. “That’s a marker of what’s to come.”

What does this mean for the health system going forward?

“Where the real work needs to be done is in chronic disease,” Repp said. “We have a crisis coming that cannot be overstated. It affects quality of life, years of life lost, a burden on the medical system.”

Chronic conditions, which can start with obesity, can’t be fixed in the emergency room.

“By the time you get to the doctor, it’s too late,” Repp said. “There needs to be much more done upstream.”

The Portland Business Journal is a KATU.com news partner.