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Insight From Cynthia Telles on the Impacts of Obesity on Health

Obesity is an epidemic in the U.S.  As a result, cities and their residents face increased health care costs and diminished quality of life. For example, more than sixty percent of obese adults have type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or other related conditions.


Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.  Kids who are overweight are more likely to become obese as adults and experience the many health problems associated with obesity.  The problem has become so pronounced that, for the first time in history, children are being diagnosed with diseases previously seen only in adults, such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.   In fact, the current generation of children are expected to have shorter lives than their parents due to the consequences of obesity.


“We have known for years that obesity creates negative and challenging health outcomes in patients,” said Dr. Cynthia Telles, Chair of the Community Health Committee for the Kaiser Permanente Foundation. “However, as the obesity epidemic grows, its impact on the health of our communities, especially economically-challenged communities, is become more evident and widespread.”


Low income communities and communities of color are disproportionally affected by the obesity epidemic. According to National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data, nationally, adult obesity rates for Latinos (47.0 percent) and Blacks (46.8 percent) are much higher than among Whites (37.9 percent), and, 34.2 percent of adults living in rural areas have obesity compared to 28.7 percent of adults living in metro areas.  


Disproportionately high rates of costly chronic disease — among both children and adults — are correlated to environments with few or no options for healthy eating and active living.  Supporting the health of residents where they live and for employees at work is essential to decreasing chronic disease and health care costs.


Fortunately, city leaders across California are addressing the crisis by implementing land use and employee policies which encourage physical activity and nutritious eating. The Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities & Towns Campaign aims to reduce and prevent obesity by engaging municipal leaders to champion healthy eating and active living in their communities through adoption of policy and promotion of opportunities for residents and municipal employees.

The HEAL Cities Campaign, which is funded by Kaiser Permanente, provides coaching and technical assistance to support this process.  Is your city part of this effort? Learn more at