State ranks about average in America’s ‘obesity epidemic’

Poverty and toxic stress among contributing factors

Minnesota’s obesity rate continues to hover slightly above 25 percent, going from 27.6 percent in 2014 to 26.1 percent in 2015 to 27.8 percent in 2016, according to data recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC released 2016 state- and territory-specific data on adult obesity prevalence using self-reported information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). People who are obese face an increased risk for a range of serious diseases and health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, coronary heart disease and some cancers.

The Minnesota adult rate of obesity of 27.8 percent in 2016 was lower than the median U.S. obesity rate of 29.8 percent. Minnesota’s obesity rate continued a historic trend of being lower than other Midwestern states including neighboring states Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota’s obesity rate has remained relatively stable at just above 25 percent since 2007. Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) researchers also analyzed CDC obesity data from 2015 and 2016 and found that physical activity and diet continue to have a significant influence on Minnesota’s obesity rates. According to 2016 BRFSS data, Minnesotans who reported some physical activity in the past 30 days had a lower obesity rate than those who did not (25.6 percent compared with 37.9 percent, respectively).

MDH researchers also found that economic well-being affects obesity, according to a data brief at the MDH obesity quick facts page. Minnesotans who rarely worried about having enough money for food and housing had significantly lower obesity rates.

Based on 2015 data, Minnesotans who rarely worried or stressed about having enough money for housing and nutritious meals had an obesity rate of about 25 percent compared to a 33 percent obesity rate for Minnesotans who were stressed about money for food and housing.

“Living without safe, stable and secure housing puts a lot of stress on people,” MDH Commissioner Dr. Edward Ehlinger said. “People in that stressful situation end up worrying about a whole variety of things that people with secure housing don’t have to worry about.

“That stress is toxic, and it interferes with people’s ability to get out and be active and have access to healthy foods. Those factors in turn greatly impact how well we eat and how much we move.”

Preventing obesity requires changes in behavior, which includes access to environments that support physical activity and healthy eating, where people live, work, learn and play.

Minnesota spent $2.8 billion on obesity-related healthcare costs in 2009. Recognizing the need to control healthcare costs driven in part by rising obesity rates, the Minnesota Legislature enacted the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) in 2008.

SHIP is active in all 87 counties and 10 of the state’s tribal nations. SHIP works at the local level to implement community-driven strategies to increase opportunities for Minnesota’s children and families to eat healthier and to have increased opportunities for physical activity — two important factors that can have a significant impact on obesity rates.

“The cause of America’s obesity epidemic is complex, and there are no simple solutions,” Ehlinger said. “We to need work persistently to address those factors that we know contribute to obesity. Our best tools for doing that are prevention strategies like the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership.”


— Information and graphic provided by the Minnesota Department of Health