Obesity in Harford County
Why do we care about Obesity?
Obesity has been linked to increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, arthritis-related disability, Alzheimer’s disease, and some cancers. It is also, for the most part, preventable. While genetics do play a part in obesity, given the fact that the rate of obesity has been steadily increasing over the past decades, lifestyles are playing a huge part in the growing obesity epidemic.
Healthy Harford does not promote weight loss through dieting, but rather emphasizes making positive lifestyle choices to help find your ideal weight. By moving more and focusing on food with the most nutritional bang (often referred to nutritionally dense food), weight loss will occur naturally.
Our goal is to help make eating healthy easier. Contrary to popular opinion, healthy eating isn’t necessarily more expensive, but it can take more time when you are first getting started. The resources and tips here are designed to help.
Is obesity really a problem here in Harford County?
While weight is just one factor in measuring health, the obesity epidemic, and related health implications and costs, is a serious health issue in our community.
According to the 2021 Community Health Rankings, 32% of Harford County adult residents are obese, meaning they have a a BMI of 30 or above. Combining that with the number of overweight people in our community brings the total up to 64% or roughly 2 out of every 3 Harford County adults are either overweight or obese . In addition, 1 out of every 4 of our children are also overweight or obese. (Maryland Department of Health, Population Health)
Why does having such a large overweight and obese population matter to our community?
- The top three causes of mortality in our community are cancer, heart disease, and stroke – all of which are negatively affected by obesity, making obesity a leading factor in preventable deaths. In addition, people who are obese are more likely to have bigger health concerns if they have Covid19.
- Obesity also tend to occur along with other health issues. Of adults considered obese, 52% had high blood pressure, 44% had high cholesterol, and 21% had diabetes. Healthy weight can aid in the control of these conditions.
- People who are obese have an extra $1,850 (and those morbidly obese an extra $5,500) in health care costs, compared with normal weight people.
- Over 40% of all cancers and other chronic diseases are lifestyle related (smoking, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity, etc.)
- Even modest weight loss can have a big impact on health – a 5% weight loss in an obese person can reduce their mortality risk by 12%.
Dr. Russell Moy, former Health Officer for the Harford County Health Department presented a State of the Health of the County PowerPoint at the annual 2019 Annual Local Health Improvement Coalition (LHIC) presentation. This presentation shines a light on the top health issues affecting our county. Obesity as a contributing factor is the leading causes of death, is a concerning one, in particular for communities of color.
What are we doing locally to try to improve the health of our community?
Free Healthy Lifestyle classes – UM Upper Chesapeake Healthlink offers free classes to help residents get and stay healthy. There are free classes on Healthy Living, Diabetes Prevention Classes, Diabetes self management, Living Well with Chronic Disease, Living Well with Chronic Pain, and fall prevention classes. Call 1.800.515.0044 for more information.
Building a healthier Harford County – Implementing the community planning ideas outlined in the Healthy Communities Section of Harford NEXT issued by the Department of Planning and Zoning.
- Creating a more walkable/bikeable community
- Increasing public spaces
- Linking communities through off-road paths to retail, libraries, work, and other areas.
School Wellness – working with the Harford County Public Schools on a number of initiatives:
- Integrating more movement into the school day
- Increasing the amount of local produce served through Farm to School programs
- Improving nutrition education through the Days of Taste Program
- Implementing special programs lifestyle programs for morbidly obese students
Community Gardens – Expanding the number of community, school, and faith-based gardens
Faith-Based Wellness – assisting Faith-Based organizations with creating and implementing Health and Wellness Ministries for healthier congregations.
Mental Health – Depression is a significant contributor to obesity. The Klein Family Harford Crisis Center has a 24/7 HOTLINE 1.800.NEXTSTEP for anyone in need of information, assistance, or referrals. The center is open for walk in services during normal business services. Services are available regardless of insurance, income, or residency. Depression is the number one reason people seek help at the Center.
Senior Health – There are a number of programs available through the Harford County Office on Aging and local Senior Centers. Diabetes is not an inevitable part of aging. Have your A1C and glucose tolerance tests as recommended by your doctor.
Car Fit – helping seniors drive safe longer. Car Fit is a FREE program in partnership with the State Highway Assoc. and AAA check. Trained technicians will inspect your mirror position, lights and seat/steering positions for optimal safety. An Occupational Therapist will then recommend movement or accessory add-ons to make sure your car FITS you perfectly. For those that have had a significant change in weight or have experienced physical health changes, this checks can ensure your safe driving. Sessions are offered annually and are posted on the Healthy Harford calendar of events.
- All three Harford County Municipalities are HEAL Communities
- Healthy Community Planning Board
- Obesity Task Force
- Healthy Harford Events to raise awareness of healthy lifestyles