The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health)
Between 2010 and 2012, the obesity rate in San Antonio and Bexar County plunged from 35.1% to 28.5%. This is a remarkable decrease over a short period of time in the most common risk factor for premature death and disability in the United States. The declining obesity rate was paralleled by an increase in the healthy weight proportion of the population from 31.2% to 35.4%. Greatest improvement was seen among middle class, Hispanics with some post high school education. However, all sectors of the community, segmented by age, gender, race/ethnicity and geography, moved toward greater fitness, with the exception of those over 65. Obesity among seniors , unfortunately, may be increasing.
The source of these data are the enhanced Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Surveys (BRFSS) conducted at the beginning and end of the $15.6 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CCPW) obesity prevention grant received by Metro Health. Metro Health partnered with the City of San Antonio Departments for Parks and Recreation, Planning, Public Works, Library, and Office of Sustainability, as well as the Bexar County Health Collaborative, San Antonio Housing Authority, YMCA, SA Sports, UTSA, the University of Texas School of Public Health and local school districts to apply CPPW funds in a variety of ways to increase physical activity and improve nutrition. CPPW highlights were Siclovia, salad bars in schools, ride-to-own bikes, fitness in the parks, SPARKS and other shared-used facilities. Simultaneously, with other funding, the San Antonio River Mission Reach was inaugurated, the B-cycle bike share program was created, Por Vida dining was embraced by restaurants, Greenway Trails were extended and the Mayor’s Fitness Council became active.
BRFSS is a periodic, standardized, nation-wide survey directed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was enhanced locally by tripling the standard sample size to more accurately document any changes over the time period of the Metro Health CPPW grant. Approximately 1500 people were surveyed by telephone in Bexar County in 2010 and 2012 using standardized questions and methods. The larger sample size, gives us high confidence that the data reflect significant change. Statistically, there is almost 95% confidence that the BMI changes documented are real and not the product of random error. During the same period, state-wide BRFS data show a decrease in obesity from 31.8% to 29.3% demonstrating that San Antonio was heavier but is now fitter than most of Texas.
Although two points in time do not make a trend, the recent, dramatic shift toward fitness in San Antonio is cause for celebration and recommitment. There is much work left to be done especially among seniors and those with lower income and education.
Carol Schliesinger, Public Relations Manager · 210.207.8172