September 19, 2012

Obesity problem growing

Study predicts Washington rate will double by 2030
The Spokesman-Review

Washington’s obesity rate is projected to hit 55.5 percent by the year 2030 – more than double the rate of 2011 and higher than the projected rate in Idaho.

The forecasted figures are part of a study released Tuesday from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, national nonprofits that focus on health, health care and disease prevention.

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

With 26.5 percent of the population considered obese in 2011, Washington was the 33rd most obese state in the nation.

Idaho ranked 30th, with 27 percent of its population considered obese last year. By 2030, 53 percent of Idaho’s population is predicted to be obese.

According to the CDC, 35.7 percent of Americans were considered obese in 2011.

Mississippi ranked the highest in 2011 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’s room for improvement.

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

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.

Idaho is projected for a 12 percent cost increase.

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

“That level of conversation motivates policymakers,” 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 walk safely instead of driving, to making sure businesses help their employees lead healthy lifestyles.

Last year, the health district worked with two local stores in Spokane’s West Central neighborhood 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 drinking less soda 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 indexes by 5 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 says.

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