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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

Obesity Weighs Heavily on Health
Tuesday. April 1, 2003

PHILADELPHIA, PA, April 2003 —Data from a recent survey, conducted by Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC), a local nonprofit, show that obese adults are more likely to have chronic health conditions compared to adults of normal weight. Obesity is considered a chronic, metabolic disease caused by multiple and complex factors, including excessive calorie intake, decreased physical activity, and genetic influences.

Data from PHMC’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey show that more than one out of five (22.6%) adults 18 years of age and older living in the region are considered obese. More than one-third (38.1%) of obese adults have a chronic health condition. This percentage represents a total of 242,900 people. Other findings from the survey include the following.

  • More than two out of five adults who are obese have high blood pressure (46.5% or 297,500 people), and one-third have high cholesterol (33.4% or 212,700 people).
  • Obese adults are twice as likely to have a heart condition (12.5%) compared to adults who are of normal weight (6.9%).  They are also twice as likely to have asthma (13.3%) compared to adults who are of normal weight (7.2%).
  • Obese adults are five times as likely to be diabetic (16.3%) compared to adults who are of normal weight (3.2%).

In the survey, obesity was measured using a standard BMI calculation based on height and weight. Among children, almost four out of ten (38.2%) are considered at-risk for obesity with the highest prevalence of obesity among the youngest children. Children ages 10 or younger are twice as likely to be at-risk for obesity (50.2%) compared to older children ages 11-17 years of age (26%).

PHMC is a nonprofit, public health organization committed to improving the health of the community through outreach, education, research, planning, technical assistance, and direct services. PHMC is a United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania member agency. The 2002 Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey was conducted by telephone in the summer of 2002 and included more than 10,000 households in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia. Additional Household Health Survey findings are located on PHMC’s Community Health Data Base webpage at