September 18, 2012 in City, Health

Washington’s obesity rate on the rise

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Washington’s obesity rate is projected to hit 55.5 percent by the year 2030 - more than double the rate from 2011.

The forecasted figure is part of a new study released today from national organizations Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The report, “F as in Fat,” is issued annually. But this is the first year authors used data from the Center from Disease Control to predict obesity rates into the future.

With 26.5 percent of the population considered obese in 2011, Washington ranked 33rd in the nation, with Idaho at 30th and Oregon at 31st.

Mississippi ranked first with 34.9 percent of its population obese and Colorado came in the healthiest at 20.7 percent. By 2030, the new study predicts, two out of every three Mississippi residents will be obese.

Cindy Green, program manager for Healthy Communities for the Spokane Regional Health District, said Washington and surrounding areas are doing well by comparison, but there is much work to be done.

“We need to improve on how much physical activity we get and we need to improve on healthy eating,” Green said.

Schools in the area have taken initiative to fight childhood obesity, she said, including following new federal mandates for school lunch nutrition.

The study also outlines health care costs associated with obesity.

Washington’s health care costs are projected to increase by 21.6 percent over the next 18 years.

Green said finances can be a powerful driving force behind adapting to healthier lifestyles.

“That level of conversation motivates policy makers,” Green said. “They look at that overall impact on community. For individuals, it’s probably of concern because a lot of people are struggling with their health care costs right now.”

It’s going to take the whole community to make a difference, she said, from installing sidewalks so people can safely walk places instead of driving, to making sure businesses help their employees lead a healthy lifestyle.

Last year, the health district worked with two local stores in West Central to increase the availability of convenient, healthy food options.

For those looking to boost their health, Green said making choices like adding more fruits and vegetables and less soda to a diet are small steps that can go a long way.

The new study also includes projections about how much healthier the outlook for 2030 would be if each state reduced body mass indices by five percent. For a 200-pound man, that would be a reduction of about 10 pounds.

That reduction would save states billions of dollars in health care costs every year, the study states.

Green said Washington is on track to get healthier.

“I think as a community we’re starting to make some efforts in this direction,” she said. “I’m hoping soon we’ll see some results from this.”

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