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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Survey: Folks in Hawai'i too fat

By Robbie Dingeman
Advertiser Health Writer

Nearly half of the population of Hawai'i is overweight or obese, according to the latest health survey released yesterday by the state Health Department.

The Hawai'i Health Survey this year reached 5,673 adults who answered a variety of questions in a telephone survey over the course of last year.

Research statistician Kathleen Baker said the survey takes about 20 minutes and asks an adult member of the household to respond on behalf of all those who live there.

Baker said that 47.6 percent of Hawai'is population was categorized as overweight or obese. That's determined by body mass index, which compares weight to height. "That's a very interesting and high percentage," Baker said.

The survey, modeled after a national health interview, has been conducted annually by telephone since 1996 by SMS Research. People answer questions about various health issues, including health conditions and other general information such as age, gender, ethnicity, employment, education and whether they are covered by health insurance.

The survey indicates about 17 percent of the total population was living "below poverty level" last year as defined by the federal government guidelines determined for Hawai'i.

And about 5.5 percent of the total population was uninsured. Baker said that number may actually be higher because the survey is conducted by telephone and therefore excludes households without telephones and the homeless.

Looking more closely at disease rates, Hawai'i shows a prevalence of asthma, with 106,260 people, or 9 percent of the population, experiencing the disease. A further ethnic breakdown shows that 14.3 percent of part-Hawaiians have asthma in their families — the highest rate of any group in Hawai'i.

High blood cholesterol emerges as a problem for 22 percent of those of Japanese ancestry and 21 percent of those of Chinese ancestry.

Diabetes also shows up as a health concern for a little more than 5 percent of Hawai'i residents. And for those of Japanese ancestry, it rises to 7.6 percent.

The survey shows the incidence of diabetes increases with age in both men and women. By age 65, 15 percent of men and 18 percent of women report they have diabetes.

View detailed results of the survey online.

Reach Robbie Dingeman at rdingeman@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2429.