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.