A concerning finding for public health officials in Wisconsin, where the rate of adult obesity has been found to be higher than previously thought – at 39.4 percent. The state’s obesity rate is 4.5 percent higher than the national average obesity rate of 34.9 percent. Obesity rates are higher in persons who are older, poor, less educated, minorities or who live in a community with high economic hardship. The prior estimate of 31 percent for Wisconsin was based on phone surveys and self-reported height and weight.
Dr. Patrick Remington, associate dean of public health at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, said the finding is concerning. “It means that more Wisconsin residents are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related illnesses, and, in turn, our state is at greater risk for higher health care costs and lost productivity due to these illnesses.”
The Obesity Prevention Initiative, established by the Wisconsin Partnership Program at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, emphasizes the need for broad-based efforts to align research, education and community partnerships that lead to sustainable changes in obesity prevention. The Initiative, which addresses individual-level health through population-level health changes, has the potential to help Wisconsin become a national model for obesity prevention.
“Our research shows that Wisconsin could benefit from policy changes that promote healthier living,” says Dr. Alex Adams, principal investigator of the Obesity Prevention Initiative. “These types of changes – like school policies that provide healthier meals and promote physical activity – result in less weight gain, increased physical activity and better health for our children and families.”