Report foresees half of Illinoisans becoming obese
UPDATED 9:20 p.m. Tuesday
CHAMPAIGN — More than half of Illinois residents could be obese by 2030 if current trends continue, a new report Tuesday projects.
The annual "F as in Fat report" released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America's Health predicts Illinois' current obesity rate of 27.1 percent could continue to grow over the next 18 years to 53.7 percent.
Along with it, health care costs in Illinois could rise by as much as 16.1 percent, researchers projected.
Behind those added costs would be more obesity-related illnesses. Those diseases could climb in Illinois over the next 20 years, the report predicts, with obesity contributing to:
— About 1.5 million new cases of diabetes.
— About 3.2 million new cases of coronary heart disease and stroke.
— 3.1 million new cases of hypertension, or high blood pressure.
— 2 million new cases of arthritis.
— 468,312 new cases of obesity-related cancers.
Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Administrator Julie Pryde said she wasn't surprised by the projection.
"That's exactly what we're trying to prevent," she said. "We certainly can't have an impact everywhere, but the one place we can is in Champaign County."
Helping to trim down current obesity and prevent more obesity from developing in the local population are major activities of C-U Fit Families and the latest community health initiative the local health district is leading with the help of a state We Choose Health grant, Pryde said.
Kids spend most of their time at school and adults spend most of their time at work, she said, so two components of the We Choose Health initiative will focus on workplace wellness and expanding the Coordinated Approach To Child Health — called CATCH — to all Champaign County schools, to get kids moving more and teach them how to eat healthier.
"We want to start with the kids and reverse those numbers," Pryde said.
One-third of U.S. children are obese or overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The community health plan will also be used to help expand smoke-free zones in the community.
C-U Fit Families member Marian Huhman, a University of Illinois communications professor formerly with the CDC, said the fit families group is focusing on childhood obesity because obese kids are likely to be the adults with obesity problems down the road.
The group is focusing on building healthier habits in young people and getting families involved through such activities as safe routes to school, community gardening and bicycle safety, she said.
"The (We Choose Health) grant will really catapult this community into some specific actions," she said.
This year's "F as in Fat" report, which used 2011 obesity rates from the CDC, ranked Mississippi the fattest state in the nation with an obesity rate of 34.9 percent, and Colorado the slimmest state with an obesity rate of 20.7 percent.
Illinois ranked near the middle at 29th.
The report also suggested reducing weight by just a little could have a big effect on health care costs. If Illinoisans reduced their body mass indexes (a ratio of height to weight) by 5 percent, the cumulative savings in health care costs in the state would be 7.5 percent, or $28.1 billion by 2030, the authors projected. For someone 6 feet tall who weighs 200 pounds, that would require about a 10-pound weight loss, they said.
The report is available online at http://www.rwjf.org/.