ST PAUL, Minn. — Rising numbers are great in some things, like win totals for sporting teams and political polls.
But when it comes to Minnesota's obesity rate, an increase is not a good thing, and on Thursday the Department of Health shared some news that is cause for concern. The state's obesity rate has reached 30.1 percent, climbing from 28.4 percent in 2017, according to new statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Besides being a significant health concern on its own, obesity is also a significant driver of health care costs. In Minnesota, 2017 health care costs due to obesity were estimated to be $3.2 billion.
“Obesity is more than just a health concern for individual Minnesotans – it’s a major challenge for the entire state,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in a released statement. “Addressing this challenge requires an individual and community-level response, including smart changes to our food and physical environments.”
Malcolm says Minnesota managed to put the brakes on rising obesity rates for several years, but believes those efforts have been undercut by a combination of factors including the ongoing popularity of sugary beverages and more time time spent by young people on computers and mobile devices.
“Sugary drinks are the largest source of added sugars in the American diet, and the added calories from sugary drinks are strongly associated with weight gain and obesity,” Malcolm asserts. “Also, young adults between 15 and 18 are spending more than seven and a half hours per day sitting in front of a screen – that’s time they’re not being active.”
Efforts like the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) and other local initiatives are working hard to create communities that have increased access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity in neighborhoods, schools, worksites and health care settings. SHIP also supports statewide initiatives to improve and expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure and efforts to promote walking and walkable communities.
Other statewide efforts include the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which supports people who have prediabetes or are at risk for type 2 diabetes, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, which helps pregnant women, new mothers, babies and young children eat well, learn about nutrition and stay healthy.