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Sept. 19, 2012
TOPEKA Last year, almost 30 percent of the adults in Kansas were obese.
Over the next 20 years, according to recent analysis commissioned by both the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health, that percentage is likely to double.
That, the researchers found, would put Kansas and Louisiana on track for having the seventh highest adult obesity rate — 62.1 percent — in the nation by 2030, trailing Alabama (62.6 percent), South Carolina (62.9 percent), Tennessee (63.4 percent), Delaware (64.7 percent), Oklahoma (66.4 percent), and Mississippi (66.7 percent).
“This is an alarming projection,” said Miranda Steele, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “We’re hoping it’s a wakeup call."
KDHE, she said, is working on several initiatives aimed at combatting obesity.
“We don’t want to go where they’re saying we’re headed,” Steele said.
In the report, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future 2012,” an adult was considered obese if their body mass index is 30 or higher.
The index is a calculation derived from an individual’s height and weight. For example: Someone 5 feet 9 inches tall who weighs 203 pounds would have a BMI of 30 and would be considered obese.
A body mass index between 25 and 30 is considered overweight.
The researchers noted that in 2011, 64.5 percent of the adults in Kansas were overweight or obese.
As the state’s obesity rate increases, researchers said, so, too, will its disease encounters and health care costs. In the next 20 years, Kansas is likely to incur:
• 367,777 new cases of type 2 diabetes;
• 769,578 new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke;
• 713,158 new cases of hypertension;
• 460,030 new cases of arthritis;
• 106,322 new cases of obesity-related cancer.
If Kansas could lower its collective body mass index by 5 percent, it likely would save 7.7 percent in health care costs — almost $6 billion — between now and 2030.
"This study shows us two futures for America's health," Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a prepared statement that accompanied the report. "At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health care costs. Nothing less is acceptable."
The foundation’s recommendations included adopting policies that promote healthier meals in schools, expanding physical education programs and investing in evidence-based obesity prevention programs.
Dr. Justin Moore, division chief of endocrinology at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, said he had some reservations about the report’s projections.
“I suspect they’re a little bit pessimistic,” he said, noting that he expects to see a lessening in the “natural epidemic curve before we see another doubling of the obesity rate like we’ve seen in the last 20 or 30 years.”
Humans, he said, also may be reaching their “genetic limit in terms of how much weight we can actually carry around.”
Still, Moore seconded the warnings in the report.
“Obesity rates may be down from where they were, say, maybe 10 years ago, but, clearly, they’re still on the upswing,” he said. “Obesity will continue to be the primary driver of health care expenditures in this country for the foreseeable future; unless there’s some huge outbreak of some infectious disease, but that’s unlikely.”
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