High native Hawaiian obesity rate goes against state trend
HILO » Hawaii has one of the lowest obesity rates in the nation, but native Hawaiians are almost twice as likely to have weight problems than the rest of the state's population.
More than 39 percent of the native Hawaiian population was obese in 2006, according to the state Department of Health. Overall, 20.6 percent of state residents were considered obese.
By comparison, 19 percent of whites, 16.8 percent of Filipinos and 11.8 percent of Japanese in Hawaii were considered obese.
Economic status, hereditary factors and lifestyle choices could be contributing factors to the higher rate of obesity among native Hawaiians, said Alice M. Silbanuz, Healthy Hawaii Initiative education coordinator for the Department of Health.
"It's hard to tell why there are differences in the obesity rate," she said.
Nationwide, 25.1 percent of the population is considered obese with a body mass index of 30 or more, based on data provided by the 2006 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Hawaii had the third-lowest obesity rate in the country, behind Colorado at 18.2 percent and Massachusetts at 20.3 percent of their populations. Mississippi had the highest percentage at 31.4 percent.
"The hot topic right now in the media seems to be the 'obesity epidemic.' A more accurate description of the problem would be to call it an epidemic of physical inactivity and unhealthy eating," Silbanuz said.
Getting people to walk half an hour every day and eat more healthful food could improve the population's overall health, she said.
"Eating one more fruit and one more vegetable a day and engaging in 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day can help lower rates of obesity, heart disease, stroke and some cancers," said Health Director Dr. Chiyome Fukino.