Portion control campaign launches in California

LOS ANGELES, CA–(Marketwire – Oct 4, 2012) –  The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health today released new obesity data for LA County showing the adult obesity rate continuing to rise, and unveiled its first-ever portion control awareness campaign to address the growing epidemic. Part of Public Health’s ongoing obesity prevention efforts — Choose Health LA — the campaign aims to increase awareness of the amount of calories in popular foods, inform residents of daily recommended calorie limits, and educate residents on proper portion sizes and tips for healthier eating at restaurants and at home.

“A trend towards larger portion sizes has occurred in parallel with the increase in the frequency of overweight and obesity, which has become a leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. and a major contributor to the escalating costs of health care. Nearly a quarter of all adults in Los Angeles County now suffer from obesity,” said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, Public Health Director and Health Officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “While it’s important to encourage residents to eat healthier foods, the goal of this campaign is to get people to start thinking about how much food they are consuming in each meal. If we can get people to think about that and start eating less, or ordering smaller portions, then we will be on the right track.”

“This public education effort is one of many public health initiatives the County of Los Angeles is pursuing to help make our communities healthier,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. “We are working with key partners to enhance our neighborhoods so residents feel safe and comfortable walking, biking, and taking public transit. Our aim is to give people access to healthy foods and beverages where they live, work, and play.”

Coinciding with the public education campaign launch, Public Health is releasing new countywide adult obesity data from the 2011 Los Angeles County Health Survey. The new data show obesity rates continue to rise across all demographic groups and in almost every region of LA County.

  • The adult obesity rate increased 74 percent over the past 14 years, with the percentage of adults who were obese steadily increasing from 13.6 percent in 1997 to 23.6 percent in 2011.
  • Obesity rates increased more dramatically among younger adults than older adults. Among those aged 18 to 39 years, the obesity rate increased 104 percent between 1997 and 2011, while for those 40 years and older the obesity rate increased 49 percent in the same time period.
  • The increase was larger among Latinos (99 percent) than whites (50 percent) and African Americans (43 percent). The largest increase was seen among Asians/Pacific Islanders (141 percent), although the obesity rate was considerably lower in this group (8.9 percent in 2011) than in the other racial/ethnic groups.

In addition, the data shows that large disparities in the obesity rates remain:

  • In 2011, the obesity rate was highest among Latinos (31.6 percent) and African Americans (31 percent), intermediate among whites (18 percent) and lowest among Asians/Pacific Islanders (8.9 percent).
  • LA County residents with less formal education had higher rates of obesity: 32.3 percent among those with less than a high school education compared to 15.9 percent among those with a college degree.
  • Obesity rates were higher among people with lower household incomes: 30.2 percent among those with incomes below the federal poverty level compared to 19.9 percent among those with incomes at 200 percent or above the federal poverty level.

“The continuing rise in adult obesity shows the urgent need to intensify obesity prevention efforts throughout LA County,” said Fielding. “The portion control campaign is just one part of a long-term process to get residents thinking about eating less, choosing healthier options and being more physically active, ultimately leading to a healthier, more economically productive community with decreased healthcare costs.”

The portion control campaign is part of Public Health’s ongoing, comprehensive efforts to curb the obesity epidemic by educating and empowering LA County residents to “Choose Health.” It will include out-of-home (transit shelter, bus and rail car, and billboard), television, radio and online ads; website content and strategic social media outreach. With the message, “Choose Less. Weigh Less.,” the campaign illustrates how choosing even slightly smaller portions of popular foods can have a big impact on calorie intake.

Additional campaign messages include the recommended daily calorie limit for most adults (2,000), proper portion sizes for various foods (i.e., 3 oz. for meat, poultry and fish, or about the size of a deck of cards), and tips for controlling portion sizes of snacks and meals at home and at restaurants (such as measuring out serving sizes of snack foods instead of eating from the package, or asking the waiter to box up half your entrée before you start eating).

For more information on nutrition and healthy eating in Los Angeles County, connect with Choose Health LA online, which represents obesity prevention public health efforts in LA County. Visit Choose Health LA on Twitter @ChooseHealthLA, on Facebook and at ChooseHealthLA.com.

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