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Press Release # 115-05
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; (212) 788-3058 (after hours or on weekends)
Sandra Mullin
Eric Riley


Two-thirds of obese residents do not think they are overweight

NEW YORK CITY - November 22, 2005 - Although approximately 1 million New Yorkers - about one in five residents - are obese, only 39% of obese adults say "very overweight" when asked to define themselves, according to a new report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). In addition, more than half of adult New Yorkers (53%) are overweight or obese, and only 44% are at a healthy weight.

"Obesity poses one of our most serious health risks," said DOHMH Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. "In some New York City neighborhoods, more than one in four people is obese. The toll on personal health is enormous. Most obese and overweight people describe unhealthy eating habits and report poorer health than other City residents. Understanding one's weight is an important first step in reducing health risks.

Findings of New Report on Adult Obesity
  • • When asked how overweight they are, only 39% of obese New Yorkers say "very overweight"
  • • Only 26% of New Yorkers engage in physical activity at least 30 minutes a day, 4 times a week
  • • One in four (23%) obese New Yorkers say they watch five or more hours of television per day
  • • Diabetes is 3 times more common among obese New Yorkers
  • • Areas with the highest proportions of residents who do not eat at least 5 fruits and/or vegetables per day have the highest rates of obesity

"Obesity is directly related to getting too little physical activity and consuming too many calories," Dr. Frieden continued. "Nearly 75% of New York City adults report no regular physical activity and nine out of 10 do not eat the recommended servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day. Obesity causes heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke and worsens asthma, arthritis and other conditions. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week can literally save your life."

New York City's adult obesity rate was 20% in 2003, compared to 23% nationwide in 2004. The national average has nearly doubled from 12% in 1993.

DOHMH has launched several new initiatives to promote good health at an early age, including the "Helping Children Reach a Healthy Weight" program, a Citywide effort to help children and their parents get in shape. Free materials have been distributed to more than 600,000 elementary school students, with colorful booklets and magnets highlighting the "8 Habits of Healthy Kids." Training has also begun for close to 500 pre-kindergarten teachers in the SPARK program (Sport, Play and Active Recreation for Kids), which provides skills and equipment for structuring physical activity into a child's day.

"The serious health problems related to being overweight or obese often stem from childhood," said Dr. Frieden. "In fact, one in five kindergartners in New York City is obese. These initiatives offer practical tips in accessible formats for kids, because even a small change in weight reduces the risk of health problems."


Know where you stand.

Reduce your risk.

  • Even a little physical activity can help you reach a healthier weight. Work your way up to 30 minutes a day, most days a week. It will greatly improve your health, even if your weight doesn't go down.
    • Take the stairs instead of the elevator or get off the subway or bus one stop early.
    • Walking is excellent exercise - try replacing some TV time with a walk.
      For more information on how to "Energize Your Life," visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website at
  • A healthy diet today has many health benefits, even if you don't lose weight. Learn more at:
    • Trade sugar-full sodas and juices for water or sugar-free drinks.
    • Eat smaller portions. Bring your own lunch. Keep healthy snacks, such as fruits and vegetables, with you to fight off sugary temptations.
    • Don't eat in front of the TV.
  • Talk to your health care provider about your weight, what you eat, and your physical activity.
    • Have your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar checked periodically.
  • BEAT diabetes. Obesity can lead to diabetes and make it harder to control. If you have diabetes:
    • be physically active.
    • eat a healthy diet (increase fruits, vegetables and fiber, decrease saturated and trans fats).
    • know your ABCs (A1C, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol, and Stop Smoking)
    • take your medicine.

For more information, call 3-1-1 or read the full report at New Yorkers interested in losing weight or who are obese should first discuss possible options for weight loss with their doctor.

About the Survey

Data presented in this report are based on results from the 2002 and 2003 (combined, when possible) New York City Community Health Survey (CHS), an annual telephone survey of adult New Yorkers conducted by the DOHMH, Division of Epidemiology, Bureau of Epidemiology Services. CHS provides robust data on the health of New Yorkers, including both neighborhood and citywide estimates on a broad range of chronic diseases and behavioral risk factors.

CHS is based upon the National Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CHS is a cross-sectional survey that samples approximately 10,000 adults aged 18 and older from all five boroughs of New York City - Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island. A computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) system is used to collect survey data, and interviews are conducted in a variety of different languages. All data collected are self-report.

The survey results are analyzed and disseminated in order to influence health program decisions, to increase the understanding of the relationship between health behavior and health status, and to support health policy positions.