“F” as in Fat

This year I made a fairly tasteless joke while watching the Packers win the Super Bowl: What do you call a 300 lb Packer fan? Anorexic.

I then followed it up with the comment that really, Wisconsin Cheeseheads are all linebackers in training; a demonstration that our whole state is prepared to step up in times of dire pigskin need.

Sadly, it seems I might not have been that far off. But as it happens, it is our whole country that seems to be vying for Chad Clifton’s spot at Tackle: a new Behavioral Risk Surveillance System report now finds that 27.4% of Wisconsinites are officially “obese,” including 13.1% of children age 10 to 17. And we’re only 25th in the nation, nowhere near #1 Mississippi with 34.4% of adults and 21.9% of children obese.

In fact, Wisconsin is falling behind. Just 15 years ago, we were the 10th most obese state in the union, and now we’ve dropped to 25th. Unfortunately, it’s not because Wisconsinites have gotten any thinner; in fact, Wisconsin obesity rates have increased 67% in that decade and a half. But in that time, 15 other states caught up and surpassed us.

Statistics in the report, based on the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and compiled and reported by the Trust For America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), is almost too disturbing to talk about. I almost can’t dig past the first and biggest points:

  • In 1990, no state’s prevalence of obesity in adults was greater than 15%. Today, 20 years later, no state’s adult obesity prevalence is LESS than 15%. Colorado, the “thinnest” state of the union has an adult obesity prevalence of nearly 20% (one in five adults) – fatter than any state 20 years ago.
  • Many states are swiftly encroaching on 30% adult obesity – so swiftly that in the last four years we went from only one state with adult obesity prevalence at more than 30% to twelve at 30% or more. And 27 more (including Wisconsin at 27.4%) are right on the doorstep. That would mean, in the next couple of years, three quarters of American states will see obesity in nearly one in three of their adults.

Our children are the next victims of this plague.

  • Childhood obesity is quickly becoming a problem far beyond teasing on the playground. In Wisconsin, more than 1 in 10 children between ages 10 and 17 are considered obese.  That means the same percentage of Wisconsin teens are obese today as were in the entire United States adult population 20 years ago.

While changes in diet and lifestyle are definite contributors to this wildfire epidemic, there is still a lot of discussion about what other factors come in to play to cause individuals to gain weight to a BMI of greater than or equal to 30. Yet, the health issues associated with having a BMI of 30 or higher are hardly in doubt. Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke – all individuals who are obese or overweight are at higher risk for developing any of these chronic diseases. And we see that played out in the statistics.

  • Wisconsin diabetes rates have doubled in the last 15 years, one of eight states to see this happen. In 1995, they were 4.4 percent. Now 7.5 percent of individuals live with diabetes every day. Since Wisconsin has been fatter longer, we may well be a bell-weather of what is to come for other states.
  • Hypertension is also increasing, from 21.5% in 1995 to 26.4%.

If you would like to see the full report for yourself, visit the report on the Trust For America’s Health website.

I’m going to go take a brisk walk and eat some carrots.

Census in the News

The Northwoods River News carried a story about the census numbers last week. Click the following link to read the full article online:

Census shows population in decline

Hot of the Presses – 2010 Census Data

Remember just a year ago how the headlines were full of stories about the 2010 US Census? Well, the Census data collected all last year is now being released – slowly, as it is organized – and we’ve received the first pieces of it.

By Federal law, the US Census Bureau is required to release basic population data by April 1st of the year following the decennial count. This is so that States can begin the redistricting process, realigning the voting district lines for the House of Representatives so that the total number of representatives reflects the population changes in each area of each state.

Wisconsin’s population figures were released this week, and if you select Wisconsin on the map, you will see that the north central counties (other than Vilas) decreased in population. Oneida County’s population decreased by 2%.

The following table shows the population change for individual towns in Oneida County (towns in italics are those that lost population in the last ten years):

City/Town 2010 Population 2000 Population Change % Change
Cassian 985 962 23 2%
Crescent 2033 2071 -38 -2%
Enterprise 315 274 41 15%
Hazelhurst 1273 1267 6 0%
Lake Tomahawk 1043 1160 -117 -10%
Little Rice 306 314 -8 -3%
Lynne 141 210 -69 -33%
Minocqua 4385 4859 -474 -10%
Monico 309 364 -55 -15%
Newbold 2719 2710 9 0%
Nokomis 1371 1363 8 1%
Pelican 2764 2902 -138 -5%
Piehl 86 93 -7 -8%
Pine Lake 2740 2720 20 1%
Rhinelander 7798 7735 63 1%
Schoepke 387 352 35 10%
Stella 650 633 17 3%
Sugar Camp 1694 1781 -87 -5%
Three Lakes 2131 2339 -208 -9%
Woodboro 813 685 128 19%
Woodruff 2055 1982 73 4%
Oneida County 35998 36776 -778 -2%

You can browse the data on population, race, housing units and occupancy for yourself at the new American FactFinder. But it is a bit tricky to use, so I have summarized the population, housing and occupancy numbers for Oneida and Vilas County in an Excel file available here.

You will notice that I’ve included the % Vacant Housing Units in the Excel worksheet. In Oneida and Vilas County, nearly 50% of all homes are “vacant.” In the full decennial Census data, there is another category “For seasonal, recreational or occaisonal use” – which is what the vast majority of vacant housing in Oneida and Vilas counties are.  That number has not been released for the 2010 data yet, so it is difficult to know yet whether the across-the-board increase in vacant housing units is an increase in seasonal housing, or in vacant homes sitting on the market.

The rest of the 2010 Census data is scheduled to be released in parts over the next two years, with the Demographic Profile due out in May 2011, and the Summary File 1 (the majority of the basic information on demographic, social, economic and housing data) due out between June and August 2011. Watch this space for updates as they come!

Demographic and Economic data forum RESCHEDULED!

On Wednesday, March 16 at 6 PM, tune your radio to 91.7 FM, WXPR for a forum to discuss Census and other demographic changes that influence the counties in the Northwoods.

Did you realize that currently 20% of residents of Oneida County and 25% of Vilas County residents are over the age of 65?

And that half of the houses in Oneida and Vilas counties are seasonal homes? And that increasingly those homes are becoming permanent homes as their owners retired and settle here in the Northwoods. So our populations in the north counties are growing, but they’re growing due to the immigration of retirees.

And, did you know that fewer than 1% of local high school graduates who leave for further education are projected to return to the area as workers.

What does all this mean for our counties’ economic future? Tune in at 6 PM on Wednesday to find out.

SCORP – A useful report for Oneida and Vilas Counties

The DNR has released their 2011-2016 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). Even if you don’t work  in natural resources or outdoor recreation, this is a very useful report as it contains some elegantly composed, comprehensive demographic information for the 10 recreation regions around the state. Region 2 in this report is specific to Oneida and Vilas County.

The last report, for 2005 – 2010, had only 8 regions, with Oneida and Vilas counties included in the larger 9-county “Northwoods” area.

Also cited in the report are two nice sources for demographic data:

1. The UW-Madison Center for Demography and Ecology Information Services, which also has a portal for sources of various demographic datasets.


2. State of Wisconsin Department of Administration Demographic Services. In addition to some nice maps, I particularly like the access to full Excel datasets for population and household projections, and population and housing estimates.

Future Trends

UPDATE: Due to illness, we’ve had to postpone our radio program, but it will be resecheduled. We’ll let you know when the new date and time will be!!

On Thursday, February 24 from 6 to 7 PM, Dan Kuzlik, UW-Extension’s Community, Natural Resource, and Economic Development agent and me, Family Living agent for Oneida County, together with a representative of the Department on Aging and an area economist will be appearing on a live talk show on WXPR radio (91.7 FM). We will be discussing demographic trends in the area and the impact they have on economic, social, and government issues for our Northwoods counties.

You will have a chance to call in with your questions – your chance to try to stump the chumps! (Well, please go easy on us…at least on air… :) )