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The Epidemic of Obesity Examined

Obesity Trends* Among U.S. Adults
BRFSS, 2010
(*BMI ≥30, or ~ 30 lbs. overweight for 5’ 4” person)

The World Health Organization reports that obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with more than 1 billion adults overweight--at least 300 million of them clinically obese. (1) In the U.S., about one-third of adults are obese, and in our home State of Connecticut, more than 20% of the population is considered obese. (2) These statistics are not surprising given a culture that celebrates the consumption of unhealthy food and that is increasingly sedentary.

The good news is that there's a local group hard at work to create a healthier New Haven community. The Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE) is a Yale School of Public Health program, established in 2007, that partners with the New Haven community to promote healthy living. It focuses on three risk factors: diet, exercise and tobacco use. In February 2012 CARE launched Big Food: Health, Culture and the Evolution of Eating, a year-long exhibition that was on display at the Peabody Museum. It was designed to:

  • identify local, national, and global contributors to obesity and their consequences;
  • expand visitors' scientific understanding of the complex forces that have resulted in the rise of obesity;
  • develop educational opportunities for visitors to understand the scientific, cultural, health, and environmental aspects of obesity;
  • promote collaboration between the sponsors, as well as the many university and community organizations committed to science and advocacy regarding obesity, public health, food production and distribution, and environmental sustainability. 

The exhibit and its educational outreach received a grant from The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Critical Public Health Fund. The Fund was created in 1988 to serve as a permanent means to enable The Community Foundation to respond to new and emerging public health needs in the region.

Since creation, more than $350,000 in grants has been awarded from the Fund supporting programs that have: promoted drug-free communities, address hoarding and homelessness, reduce barriers to access to health care based on racism and cultural insensitivity, provide outreach and AIDS education, including a summer camp for children living with HIV/AIDS, ensure specialty healthcare for eligible uninsured adults, develop a youth violence prevention project, provide domestic violence awareness and education and much more.

What you can do:


  • Support nonprofits on® working to create a healthier community 
  • Follow and support CARE's work in the community on Facebook and Twitter
  • Make a gift to The Community Foundation's Critical Public Health Fund so more programs that promote healthy living can be funded
  • Eat healthy and exercise daily; help others to do the same

(1) WHO: 10 Facts on Obesity
(2),(3) CDC:
(4) Valley CARES Quality of Life Report (2010)

Learn more about CARE from a Fall 2010 Yale Public Health Magazine article

Last updated July 2013

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In New Haven, one-half of 5th and 6th graders in twelve schools are already overweight or obese.

That's a problem because a recent CARE study found that healthy weight and physical fitness are significantly associated with CT Mastery Test success. Source 

What's At Stake

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity, which has contributed to an increase of chronic diseases, including:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • cardiovascular disease
  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • certain forms of cancer(3)


In the Fall of 2009, with support from The Community Foundation, CARE collected health surveys from over 1200 residents in six of New Haven's highest-risk neighborhoods. New Haven residents reported poorer health than the national average, including a higher obesity rate of greater than 30%. Click on the chart below for summary results.


According to a report released by the Valley Council for Health & Human Services in 2010, the obesity rate for Valley residents is not far behind at 23%.(4) 

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