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Obesity

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maintain optimal physical and behavioral health.

21% of adults in Travis County are obese

Indicator: Percent of adults in Travis County who are obese

Goal: Reduce the percentage of people who are obese

Target: 19% by 2020

Key Trends: Travis County’s obesity rate has been declining for two years, but is still higher than it was in 2011, the first year of available data. Travis County’s obesity rate is consistently lower than that of the state and the nation.

The City of Austin Health and Human Services Department reports the adult obesity rate for Blacks in Travis County is approximately 42%, compared to 26% for Hispanics, 17% for Whites and 10% for others. According to the 2016 Chronic Disease in Travis County report and the Texas BRFSS, Blacks have the highest prevalence rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes – diseases that are more prevalent among people who are overweight or obese. Travis County residents who are Black also die from these diseases at a higher rate than residents of other races or ethnicities.

Other sub-populations with a high prevalence of obesity include people who earn less than $25,000 per year, people ages 45-64, people with a disability and people with no high school degree.

what the data tell us

In 2014, 21% of adults in Travis County were obese. This is lower than the obesity rate for the greater Austin region (26%), the state of Texas (32) and the nation (30%). A small sample of people are surveyed about their Body Mass Indices through the tool used to collect this data. As a result, it is best to consider trends over time.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more.

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. The sample sizes for BRFSS data are relatively small. Differences appearing on the graph may not be statistically significant at the 95% level and should be interpreted with caution.

the story behind the indicator

The Centers for Disease Control reports that a body mass index above 30 increases the risk for a number of conditions, including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancers, and hypertension, or high blood pressure. Some factors that affect obesity are outside the control of individuals and policymakers, including the influence of genetics and certain illnesses. Other external factors, such as encouraging physical activity and healthy eating, creating walkable and safe neighborhoods and accessibility to parks can help reduce obesity.

Obesity rates are disproportionately high among adults who report lower incomes and among Black adults. According to the 2016 Chronic Disease in Travis County report and the Texas BRFSS, Blacks have the highest prevalence rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes – diseases that are more prevalent among people who are overweight or obese. Travis County residents who are Black also die from these diseases at a higher rate than residents of other races or ethnicities.

People with disabilities, particularly mobility limitations, are also susceptible to obesity.

a closer look

Click on one of the titles below for more information.

» Obesity in Travis County - Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Data

Adult Obesity by Race and Ethnicity, Travis County, 2011-2014

Black adults in Travis County are more likely to be obese than other races and ethnicities. According to the 2016 Chronic Disease in Travis County report, Blacks also have the highest rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes – diseases that are most prevalent among people who are overweight or obese. Due to small sample sizes, data was aggregated over four years. For the time frame of 2011 through 2014, the adult obesity rate for Blacks was 42%, compared to 26% for Hispanics, 17% for Whites and 10% for Asians and others.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by race and ethnicity

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

Obesity, by income, Travis County, 2011-2014

Obesity is most prevalent among people of lowest incomes. Data aggregated from 2011 through 2014 shows that 28% of people earning less than $25,000 a year in Travis County are obese.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by income

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

Obesity, by age, Travis County, 2011-2014

Middle aged adults between 45 and 64 in Travis County have the highest rates of obesity.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by age group

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

Obesity, by disability status, Travis County, 2011-2014

People with a disability have much higher rates of obesity than those with no disability. Based on Travis County residents surveyed 2011 through 2014, an estimated 33% of people with a disability were obese, compared to 19% with no disability.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by disablilty status

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

Obesity, by educational attainment, Travis County, 2011-2014

Obesity is most prevalent among people with a low level of education. 30% of Travis County residents with less than a high school degree were obese, according to aggregated data from 2011-2014.

Definition: Adults ages 18 and up who have a body mass index of 30 or more by educational attainment

Data Source: Texas Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and City of Austin Health and Human Services Department

Data Considerations: The BRFSS collects data through phone interviews. Because the sample sizes for BRFSS data are small, the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department has aggregated data for 2011 through 2014 to allow an analysis by sub-population.

» concentrations of aisd middle school students with high-bmi with new city council districts

This map shows that there are certain places in Austin where there are higher concentrations of Austin ISD middle school students who are overweight or obese. The Dove Springs and Quail Creek/St. John neighborhoods have particularly high concentrations of overweight and obese middle school students.

Definition: Austin Independent School District students in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade with an overweight or obese body mass index by geographic concentration in Austin

Data Source: Map was produced by Children’s Optimal Health. Data was provided by the Austin Independent School District, Central Health, InfoUSA, and the City of Austin.

Data Considerations: The Austin Independent School District area is indicated by the white unshaded area of the map. Eighty-five percent of Austin ISD middle school students are represented in the data on this graph.

» concentrations of aisd elementary school students with high-bmi with new city council districts

Children’s Optimal Health produced five observations about the Dove Springs neighborhood and the middle school students that live there: 1) there appear to be very few food outlets located close to where families live, 2) there are only a few food establishments in the Dove Springs area that supply both fresh meat and fresh fruits and vegetables, 3) there appears to be a large amount of green space in this area but not all of it may be accessible for recreational use and appropriate for children to play in, 4) a higher proportion of students are overweight and/or obese than have poor cardiovascular fitness in Dove Springs, and 5) over the past 3 years, Mendez Middle School, which is in the Dove Spring neighborhood, has seen over a 20% decrease in the number of students who failed the cardiovascular test.

Definition: Austin Independent School District students in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade with an overweight or obese body mass index

Data Source: Map was produced by Children’s Optimal Health. Data was provided by the Austin Independent School District, Central Health, InfoUSA, and the City of Austin.

» concentrations of severely obese aisd students with new city council districts

Children’s Optimal Health produced three observations about the Quail Creek and St. John neighborhood and the middle school students that live there: These observations are based upon the maps created for the Quail Creek/St. John area: 1) there are high concentrations of fast food establishments and convenience stores in this area, 2) multiple opportunities to access healthy food options are in this area, however, negative influences (i.e. fast food and convenience stores) saturate the areas where people live, 3) several middle schools saw a significant change in the percentage of students who failed the cardiovascular test from school year 08-09 to school year 09-10: Webb (38.2% decrease), Pearce (16.2% decrease), Lamar (11.6% decrease), Burnet (7.4% decrease), and Dobie (23.7% decrease).

Definition: Austin Independent School District students in any grade with a severely obese body mass index by geographic concentration

Data Source: Map was produced by Children’s Optimal Health. Data was provided by the Austin Independent School District, Central Health, InfoUSA, and the City of Austin.

some local efforts to improve this indicator

Collaborative Initiatives

  • In 2014, a coalition of local partners including Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department (ATCHHSD), the City of Austin Transportation Department, the City of Austin Office of Sustainability, and Capital Metro, was awarded a grant from the American Planning Association to promote the use of active transportation and assess the neighborhood food system in the Rundberg area .

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  • As part of the Community Health Improvement Plan, local stakeholders including the Central Texas Afterschool Network and the University of Texas School of Public Health are promoting guidelines to encourage healthy eating at after school programs.

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  • The Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition brings together community partners to promote strategies that reduce chronic diseases, including obesity and tobacco use.

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  • The Central Texas Diabetes Coalition is a collaborative group working to address the prevention and control of Type 2 diabetes in Austin and the surrounding areas.

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  • The Dove Springs Go! Austin/Vamos! Austin Initiative, inspired in part by maps created by Children’s Optimal Health showing concentrations of child obesity in the Dove Springs neighborhood, works to improve health by increasing access to opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating in the 78744 and 78745 zip codes.

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  • Children’s Optimal Health (COH) has partnered with local school districts to produce maps and convene summits to raise awareness about childhood obesity in their communities. They have worked with Austin, Del Valle, Manor, Pflugerville and Round Rock ISDs to conduct these analyses.

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  • The Mayor’s Health and Fitness Council is focused on providing community connections, building alliances and supporting the implementation of best practices and programs that truly affect positive change to healthy lifestyles.  Among other activities, the Fitness Council promotes healthy workplaces by certifying employers that have health initiatives to comprehensively address tobacco-free living, physical activity, and nutrition.

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  • The Texas Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Childhood Obesity at Dell Children’s Medical Center was established to address the childhood obesity epidemic facing Central Texas today.

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  • Central Health is the lead agency for a six county Regional Healthcare Partnership Plan that describes how the region will transform healthcare delivery as part of a state-wide 1115 Waiver. The Plan includes several initiatives to address obesity and tobacco, two leading causes of chronic disease.

Plans, Data, and Reports

  • The Austin/Travis County Health Department 2015 Critical Health Indicators Report provides an overview of health conditions and disparities in Travis County.

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  • The Austin/Travis County Community Health Improvement Plan identified reducing the burden of chronic diseases caused by obesity among Austin/Travis County residents as one of its priority areas. Strategies highlighted in the CHIP for achieving this goal include increasing worksites with mother-friendly breastfeeding policies, increasing child care settings that promote healthy eating, decreasing soda consumption, and promoting environmental or policy changes that promote drinking water and decrease access to sugar-sweetened beverages.

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vulnerable populations