Utah ranks as one of the healthiest states in the country, due in part to the high percentage of Mormans in the area. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not allow smoking, drinking, caffeine consumption, and other unhealthy behaviors (depending on the source). These “rules” seem to contribute to the above-average health of the typical Utahn. Currently, 23% of Utah residents weigh in as obese. Although this number is not low by any means, it places the western state in the top 10 healthiest in the country.
However, Utah is clearly not immune to the obesity epidemic. Over 1.1 million Utahns are overweight or obese – a whopping 60% of the total population. Fortunately, in February of 2010, Governor Gary Herbert drew up a state-wide, 10-year, health initiative to decrease the burgeoning obesity rates and increase overall wellness and longevity. The Utah Nutrition and Physical Activity plan 2010 to 2020 was developed under the direction of the Utah Department of Health's Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity (PANO) program and aims to provide residents of Utah with the infrastructure to lead healthier lives. Guidelines within this plan are focused on increasing healthy eating and physical activity and promoting healthy lifestyles for all Utah residents.
Based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following target areas were identified:
• Increase physical activity
• Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
• Decrease consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages
• Increase breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity, and duration
• Reduce the consumption of high-energy-dense foods
• Decrease television viewing time
All of these are positive steps that should be embraced by the US population as a whole. It remains to be seen if true change will occur, but like Indiana and other health-focused states like Colorado and Minnesota, Utah is definitely on the right track!