Illinois ranks 24th most obese state; how does metro-east compare?

From staff and wire reportsAugust 16, 2013 

Illinois ranked the 24th most obese state in the nation, according to a new report.

The Midwestern state ranks right in the middle of the pack with 28.1 percent of adults being considered obese, according to "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013," a report from two nonprofit health organizations, the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In St. Clair and Madison counties, the numbers are pretty close to the statewide average.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 28.6 percent of adults in St. Clair County were obese from statistics gathered during 2007-2009, the most recent county statistics available, according to Mark Peters, director of community health for the St. Clair County Health Department.

That's an improvement from 2001-2003, when 29.1 percent of the adults in St. Clair County were considered obese.

"We must be doing something right," Peters said, who mentioned the county-wide partnership Get Up and Go that aims to promote physical fitness and healthy living.

Neighbors in Madison County matched the St. Clair County percentage.

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported that 28.6 percent of Madison County adults were considered obese, according to data from 2007-2009, said Amy Yeager, health promotion manager at the Madison County Health Department.

Adult obesity is defined by the Centers for Disease Control as a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30. BMI is a number calculated from a person's weight and height.

You can calculate your BMI with the formula [(weight in pounds)/(height in inches)2] x 703, or you can use the online BMI calculator through the National Institutes of Health at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/obesity/BMI/bmicalc.htm.

Adult obesity rates remained unchanged throughout the country last year, except in one state -- Arkansas -- ending three decades of rising weight gain.

That's the good news out of the latest annual report on America's obesity epidemic from the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"This is certainly one of the most hopeful reports we've had," said Jeffrey Levi, the executive director of the trust, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health research group.

But "F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2013," points out that the average adult continues to hit the scale more than 24 pounds heavier now than in 1960.

Indeed, what the report calls a "frightening prospect and an unacceptable outcome" is that young people today may be the first generation to live sicker and die earlier than its parents did.

Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas topped the list of the 10 heaviest states, while Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Colorado boasted the lowest obesity rates, based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index of 30 or more, while a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is classified as overweight, according to the CDC.

More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese, with dramatically increased risks of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and a host of other health problems, the report said.

The study found that the adult obesity rate was above 30 percent in 13 states, at least 25 percent in 41 states and above 20 percent everywhere.

In 1980, the rate wasn't above 15 percent anywhere; in 1991, not above 20 percent; in 2000, not above 25 percent; and in 2007, only one state -- Mississippi -- topped 30 percent.

Nonetheless, public awareness campaigns that focus attention on obesity might be having an impact. The "F as in Fat" rankings follow an encouraging CDC report last week that showed improved obesity rates among low-income preschoolers in 19 states and increases in just three.

"There isn't a magic bullet," Levi said. "What I think we're seeing is a culture change driven by investment in programs that promote nutrition and physical activity, like the Let's Move campaign. People are becoming far more aware, far more mobilized and far more conscious."

News-Democrat reporter Maria Hasenstab contributed to this report.

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