Photo by Getty Images for Jan Health Guide 2007 Briefs. Overweight woman getting checked by doctor with stethoscope / Getty Images/Blend Images file photo
The obesity rate
The rate of Wisconsin adult obesity increased from 20 percent to 26 percent from 2000 to 2008.
Source: Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Track 2010
What’s your BMI?
Find out whether your BMI falls in the healthy range: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight
Great resource guide for finding activity in Portage County: http://bit.ly/19w9g2y
Photo contributed by Ben Price On Tuesday, staff members from the Center for Disease Control visited various sites in Wood County, including two community gardens in Marshfield. The CDC has given Wood County $2.2 million to improve healthy eating and lifestyles and are visiting successful locations to see what works. At the Marshfield Community Garden at the First Presbyterian Church, 200 S. Lincoln Ave., are Randy Lueth, from left, DaNita Carlson, Suzanne Gaulocher, Jean Rosekrans, Tina Bart, Susan Latton, Kristie Rauter, Mary Pesik, Jenny Kohr, Barb Gillespie, Kayleen Magruder and Sue Meyer. The gardens will be used as blueprints for future gardens, which the CDC will fund. for community
The Porter family competes in one of the physical challenges at the the Triple Play Family Fit Challenge in Los Angeles.on Nov. 19. The family beat four other families to win the competition. / AP file photo
FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2007 file photo, an overweight person eats in London. Nearly everywhere around the world, people are living longer and fewer children are dying. But more and more the world is grappling with the diseases and disabilities of modern life, according to the most expansive global look so far at life expectancy and the biggest health threats nation by nation. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth) / AP file photo
Add together the percentage of Americans who fall into overweight, obese or extremely obese categories of health, and you have 75 percent of all adults, most of the population, according to 2010 survey data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number grew from 70 percent in 2000. There does not appear to be a decline in sight. In fact, obesity prevalence among men and boys during the last decade is up from 14 percent in 1999-2000 to 18.6 percent in 2009-2010. Other groups are holding steady.
At this point, just 31.2 percent of Americans are normal weight or underweight, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
Recognizing the continuing serious harmful health trend, the American Medical Association on June 18, for the first time recognized obesity as a disease that requires a range of medical interventions for treatment and prevention.
Central Wisconsin health departments are keenly focused on ways to fight obesity as well.
“It takes years of changes to make a definite impact in people’s attitudes,” said Gary Garske, interim health officer/public health planner in Portage County, where the obesity rate is 28 percent of adults.
The county’s Portage County Can coalition focused the past several years on developing partnerships to promote healthy eating and active living. The Fit Families-Fit Communities initiative aimed to increase awareness and actions related to community wellness in homes, businesses and schools.
The group developed a curriculum called Fit Kids Challenge for K-6 grade school children. The coalition’s Safe Routes to Schools program aimed to increase the percentage of students who regularly walk or bike to school. Staff members worked to gather the Central Wisconsin Worksite Wellness Network Resource guide — any company in central Wisconsin can join and use the best practice guidelines to get a company wellness program in place. And CAN compiled a county-wide list of places and ideas for fitness called the Portage County Physical Activity Guide available online or at the health department.
Portage County residents were surveyed a year into Fit Families-Fit Communities and results showed two-thirds of the respondents had increased their walking (67 percent) and working out (60 percent) during the past year. In addition, more than a third of respondents (35 percent) had increased their walking as had their children (37 percent) during the past year, according to an evaluation by the Madison-based Population Health Institute.
Bottom line, there is more awareness of opportunities for physical activity in the county.
Wood County residents also were surveyed about barriers to physical activity through the Community Health Improvement Plan. Goals for the next five years include advocating for higher nutritional standard for Food Share recipients, increasing the number of restaurants that offer Smart meal options and working on bike/ pedestrian initiatives such as a potential bike share program.
Counties push to get residents moving
Public health nurse Jean Rosekrans said a pilot program in South Wood County would allow adults and children to use bikes that are stored under lock in various bike racks. Riders would receive a text, for example, to unlock and use the bikes for a day before returning to a rack when they have finished using the bikes. The county is currently gauging interest in such an effort.
“If you’re more active, you’re healthier,” Rosekrans said. “The cost of being inactive can lead to a lot of diseases.”
Rosekrans supervises a team focused on chronic disease prevention and management. She said there is a push to work with state legislators to ensure new road developments are “complete streets,” meaning there are sidewalks and bike lanes.
Wood County Health Department applied for a grant to help connect trail systems in the Marshfield-Hewitt area, create a mobile app with trail maps and add signs for biking and walking paths.
Eating fresh and local
The county’s Farm to School program has been a big success, offering vegetable taste-testing in the schools and working with all school districts in Wood County to find ways to offer local produce in the preparation of foods served in school.
Likewise, Farm to School is introducing fresh and whole foods to students in Wausau, D.C. Everest Area, Marathon and Stratford school districts, according to Chronic Disease Prevention program director Judy Burrows of the Marathon County Health Department.
Adults now have better access to locally grown vegetables. With the establishment of the debit card payment system and EBT access for Food Share participants at the market, more people can easily buy directly from Wausau-area farmers markets during the season.
More access, expanding resources
More encouragement of biking as a means of transportation is helped by new commuter bike route system signs in the Wausau area to show bicyclists the best way to get across local communities.
“We’re focused on creating a more healthy environment where people find it easier or more convenient to make healthy choices,” Burrows said.
The Healthy Marathon County website offers tips and healthy recipes on its Healthy Eating Active Living Coalition and Real Happy Hour web pages, along with links to other reputable sources of information for the public on active living and wellness.
Unfortunately, the progress on obesity rates across central Wisconsin and the rest of the state is slow. It will continue to be a priority to find strategies for helping to turn the trend downward.
Health leaders say they will work to improve access to good health choices for children and adults to support the goal of decreasing obesity.
“It’s gonna take a long time, a lot of persistence, to get on the healthy track again,” Rosekrans said.