Kansas is the 13th most obese state in the country but could be No. 7 – with a 62 percent obesity rate – by 2030, two nonprofit health groups said in an annual report Tuesday.
In 2011, 29.6 percent of Kansans were obese, up slightly from 29 percent in 2010, the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said in their report. The figures come from an annual phone survey of residents by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
But the two groups took a futuristic look at obesity for this year’s report, assuming that people don’t necessarily report their height and weight accurately when contacted for the phone survey. Researchers looked at other national data in which residents were actually weighed and measured, and they made adjustments for how much people in each state might fudge the truth about their weight. They also tried to apply recent trends in obesity rates, along with other factors, to make the predictions.
By the time they were finished, even the skinniest state, Colorado, now one-fifth obese, was projected to be almost half obese by 2030.
“Over the course of time we’ve seen these dramatic increases in rates,” Rich Hamburg of the Trust for America’s Health said. “ ... People are eating more, they’re eating more processed foods, and they’re less active.”
He said the 2030 projection of a 62 percent obesity rate in Kansas probably took into account the age, gender and racial makeup of the population.
The prediction “doesn’t have to be the case,” Hamburg said. The report estimated that if the state reduced the average body mass index of residents by 5 percent, there would be a $6 billion savings in health care costs by 2030.
“At every level of government, we must pursue policies that preserve health, prevent disease and reduce health-care costs,” Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said.
Jeff Levi of Trust for America’s Health said policies such as increasing physical activity time in schools and making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable could “help make healthier choices easier.”
About two-thirds of Americans are overweight now. More than one-third of adults are obese, according to the CDC. Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity.
The CDC considers someone as obese if he or she has a body mass index — a measure of weight and height that gives an indication of body fat — of 30 or more. A person who is 5 feet 9 inches and weighs 169 to 202 pounds is considered overweight. At 203 pounds, the person is considered obese.
Wichita physician Ron Hunninghake said he couldn’t disagree with the groups’ projection for 2030 based on the trend he sees.
He said that getting people to lose weight reaches into so many aspects of life that “we’ve got to make a much deeper stand against societal and cultural forces.”
“It’s all a tremendous vicious cycle, so there has to be ... a deeper level of education or commitment,” Hunninghake said, and that may need to include incentives for people to make the right choices. Not doing so can cause problems beyond obesity including diabetes, cancer, arthritis and depression.
“There are so many factors that it (obesity) influences that if we don’t figure out how to deal with this, it literally will break the system,” Hunninghake said. “ ... This goes beyond an insurance fix. ... This has to be a more pervasive look at how our Western culture is setting the stage for chronic disease. We can’t keep ignoring it.”
Contributing: Associated Press