U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Indian Health Service: The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives
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HEALTHY WEIGHT FOR LIFE

Trends and Impact

Over 80 Percent of American Indian and Alaska Native Adults Are Overweight or Obese

The prevalence of obesity in American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) and the U.S. population at large has increased dramatically over the past 30 years. According to the IHS Clinical Reporting System, over 80 percent of AI/AN adults ages 20 to 74 are overweight or obese; among children and youth, between 45 percent and 51 percent are not at a healthy weight.

Obesity Costs $147 Billion a Year

The most recent estimate puts the cost of obesity-related medical spending alone in the United States at $147 billion per year in 2008, compared with $78.5 billion in 1998. This accounts for almost 10 percent of all medical spending.

Prevalence of Overweight and Obesity
in IHS Active Clinical Patients

Adults
(ages 20–74):
81 percent are overweight or obese
54 percent are obese
85 percent of adults ages 45–54 are overweight or obese
    (highest percentage of adult patients)
Children
and Youth
(ages 2–19):
45 percent of children ages 2–5 are overweight or obese
25 percent of children ages 2–5 are obese
49 percent of children ages 6–11 are overweight or obese
31 percent of children ages 6–11 are obese
51 percent of youth ages 12–19 are overweight or obese
31 percent of youth ages 12–19 are obese
Source: Unpublished fiscal year 2008 data from the IHS Clinical Reporting System (CRS) (2009 update coming). In FY 2008, the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) user population was 1,256,963. The active clinical population ages 2–74 was 837,545; this included 520,986 adults ages 20–74 and 316,559 youth ages 2–19. In FY 2008, 618,310 active clinical patients were screened for body mass index; this included 429,809 adults ages 20–74 and 188,501 youth ages 2–19. See the definition of overweight and obesity in adults and children and youth on the following page.
Photo of Richie Grinnell.

What does obesity have to do with the daily care we health care professionals provide? Obesity is everyone’s problem. Each of us needs to work together as part of a health care team to help prevent obesity and mitigate the problems caused by it. It’s already taxing our Indian health system to the breaking point. Unless we work proactively to fight this growing problem, we’ll see it get worse in the coming years.

Rear Adm. Richie Grinnell
IHS Albuquerque Area
Acting Director

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