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Illinois obesity rates raise concern

September 20, 2018

Illinois joins nearly half of the country that has obesity rates of at least 30 percent, according to new data published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It’s an issue public health officials — and personal trainers — are working to address.

“In 2017, seven states reported an adult obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent,” the CDC report said. “This is up from five states in 2016. Five years ago, in 2012, all states had obesity prevalence lower than 35 percent.

“Obesity prevalence ranged from a low of 22.6 percent in Colorado to a high of 38.1 percent in West Virginia,” the report said.

While Illinois wasn’t one of the seven states with reported adult obesity prevalence at or above 35 percent, it was one of 22 states, Guam and Puerto Rico, that had 30 percent to 35 percent obesity among adults.

CDC data for Illinois also showed black adults have obesity rates at 39.5 percent and Hispanic adults at 35.9 percent. White adults had a rate of obesity of 30.3 percent in Illinois.

“From what we see and hear, I can see that that’s true,” said Fit Club of Springfield senior fitness director Livearl Maxeiner, better known as Max. “Business is very good for personal trainers here.”

Further, the CDC study indicates nationwide lower rates for people with higher levels of education.

“Adults without a high school degree or equivalent had the highest self-reported obesity (35.6 percent), followed by high school graduates (32.9 percent), adults with some college (31.9 percent) and college graduates (22.7 percent),” the report said.

Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Nirav Shah said that’s more of an indicator of socioeconomics.

“Education is really a proxy for what really comes down to things like income level, and what neighborhood you live in,” Shah said.

Both rural and urban neighborhoods can have limited access to healthy food choices, Shah said, and there may be limited opportunities to get exercise outside.

Max said exercise — including exercise with a personal training — can help adults.

“We can help them,” Max said. “They don’t have to live like that.”

The causes of obesity are inactivity and poor diet, Max said. Combining proper eating with consistent 30-minute workouts over time will result in weight loss, he added.

The health costs from obesity can add up.

“Diabetes, heart trouble, you’re putting extra weight on those joints and so then the knees give out, the lower back gives out, and those are the types of problems we’re trying to fight against here,” Max said.

The CDC estimated the healthcare costs nationwide from obesity was $147 billion. Shah said that’s just indirect costs.

“In indirect costs from things like absenteeism from work and things like that, we’re talking $60 billion just in those costs,” Shah said.

But Shah said there is other data indicating decreased rates among infants on food assistance over the course of six to eight years.

“Rates of obesity and severe obesity have declined among two-to-four year olds that have been involved in SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program,” Shah said. “There are positive signs on the horizon, but it is a situation where because of how long it took us to get into the pathway out will take some time.”

Shah said the department is working with school-based health centers to educate kids on what it means to live a healthy lifestyle.

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