Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

February 6, 2014
County no longer the most obese in Utah

Tooele County may have turned the corner in its long-time struggle with obesity.

The county’s obesity rate fell by almost 4 percent in 2012, according to new data from Utah’s Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health (IBIS-PH).

An estimated 28 percent of county residents were considered obese in 2012, down from 31.6 percent in 2011. The decline put the county’s obesity rate below the Weber-Morgan health district, which weighed in at 29.6 percent.

This marks the first time in several years that Tooele County has not topped the charts for obesity in the state. Yet, the county remains the most overweight in Utah. About 36.9 percent of county residents were estimated to be overweight in 2012, up slightly from 35.7 percent in 2011. A healthy weight continues to elude a total of 64.9 percent of Tooele’s population, according to IBIS-PH.

However, the increased number of overweight citizens may actually be a good sign, said Malaena Toohey, who heads LiveFit, the coalition tasked in late 2012 with addressing Tooele’s obesity epidemic. Because the county’s obesity rate decreased, many of those currently classified as overweight may be in transition from obesity to a healthy weight, she said.

“This is all good information,” Toohey said. “Federal and state anti-obesity programs seem to be hitting home, and people are losing weight.”

The county-wide obesity rates are based on a sample of residents’ Body Mass Index scores, which IBIS-PH determined after conducting a randomized phone survey. Body Mass Index is a calculation that takes a person’s height and weight into account to estimate the amount of body fat on an individual’s frame.

Scores of more than 25 are considered overweight; more than 30 are considered obese. The index is generally considered an accurate measure of body composition and an indicator of overall health, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Weight loss was not entirely even across all demographic groups in the county. For example, men — whose obesity rate dropped from 32.4 percent in 2011 to 27.7 percent in 2012 — were slightly more likely to lose weight than women, whose rate decreased from 29.4 percent to 27.5 percent.

Income and education also impacted weight loss. Individuals who make more than $75,000 decreased their demographic’s obesity rate from 27.8 percent to 24 percent. On the other end of the scale, the obesity rate among those whose income totaled less than $25,000 increased from 29.6 percent in 2011 to 34.6 percent in 2012.

Education saw a similar relationship. For those with a high-school level education, obesity decreased from 25.6 percent to 25 percent, while among college graduates the obesity rate decreased from 39.2 percent to 17.1 percent, according to data from IBIS-PH. Yet, among that same college-educated demographic, the number of overweight individuals increased from 29.5 percent to 45.5 percent.

The IBIS-PH survey collected too little data on ethnic and racial groups in Tooele County to make an effective comparison.

Obesity remains a high priority for the county, Toohey said. With more than half of the population still struggling to reach a healthy weight, Tooele still has a long way to go. But Toohey said she hoped to see substantial progress in years to come as more newly-implemented health programs take effect.

“We still have an issue,” she said, “and we’re going to address it.”

Emma Penrod

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Emma Penrod is a staff writer for the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin and covers Tooele City government, religion, health, the environment, ethnic issues and public infrastructure. A Tooele native, Penrod graduated from Tooele High School in 2010. She holds an associates degree from Utah State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University. She worked for the newspaper as a high school intern starting in 2008. In 2010 she began working full-time in the newsroom until she left for college later that year. While at BYU, Penrod worked as a writer and editor for a small health magazine in Utah County. She interned with The Riverdale Press, a community newspaper in the Bronx, NY and with the Deseret News. She is also the author of two non-fiction books.

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