Minnesota’s adult obesity rate held steady in 2019

Published 8:00 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2020

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Minnesota’s adult obesity rate was unchanged between 2018 and 2019 at 30.1%, which puts nearly one-third of Minnesotans at higher risk for suffering more severe symptoms and death if they catch COVID-19, making now an important time for Minnesotans to focus on being active and eating healthy, according to a press release.

In 2019, Minnesota continued to stay below the national adult obesity rate that rose from 30.9% in 2018 to 31.4% in 2019, according to data released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Minnesota’s obesity rate is also lower than neighboring states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa, which all reported obesity rates above 33% in 2019.

“We have learned that obesity is one of the factors that can make a case of COVID-19 much worse and hospitalization more likely,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm. “These numbers highlight how many Minnesotans share this risk and the importance of us protecting each other with masking and social distancing. It also shows the importance of our ongoing community efforts to prevent obesity through individual and community-level responses, such as smart policy changes that support access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.”

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According to the CDC, having obesity, defined as a body mass index of 30 or above, increases one’s risk of severe illness from COVID-19. Research has found overweight and obese people who contract the virus are at higher risk of severe illness, meaning that they are more likely to require hospitalization and the use of a ventilator, and are at greater risk of long-term illness and death.

Obesity also disproportionately impacts some racial and ethnic minority groups nationally and in Minnesota who are also at increased risk of COVID-19, according to the CDC website Obesity, Race/Ethnicity, and COVID-19. These differences underscore the need to remove barriers to health and ensure that communities support a healthy, active lifestyle for all. While Minnesota communities work toward this goal, there are small steps everyone can take now to improve health and protect themselves during the pandemic.

Here are some actions Minnesotans with underlying conditions, such as obesity, can take:

• Make sure to wash your hands and follow masking and social distancing guidelines.

• Be active and eat a healthy diet to support optimal immune function and help prevent or manage chronic diseases that worsen outcomes from COVID-19.

• Get enough sleep and find healthy ways to cope with stress to help with weight maintenance and improve overall health.

• Take medicines for any underlying health conditions exactly as prescribed.

• Call your health care provider if you have concerns or feel sick.

Obesity also puts people at risk for cancer, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions. In addition to being a significant health concern, obesity is also a significant driver of health care costs. In Minnesota, 2017 health care costs due to obesity were estimated to be $3.2 billion.

Turning the tide on obesity will take a comprehensive effort by all parts of society, according to CDC strategies to prevent obesity website. Minnesota’s efforts like the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and other local initiatives are working to create healthy communities that have increased access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity in neighborhoods, schools, worksites and health care settings. SHIP also supports state initiatives to improve and expand bike and pedestrian infrastructure and national efforts to promote walking and walkable communities. SHIP is active in all 87 counties and 10 tribal nations, and communities across the state have leveraged SHIP to make positive impacts at more than 5,250 sites across Minnesota.

In addition to SHIP, other statewide efforts include the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which supports people who have prediabetes or are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, and the Women, Infants and Children program, which helps eligible pregnant women, new mothers, babies and young children eat well, learn about nutrition and stay healthy. Visit Healthy Eating During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Staying Active During COVID-19 Pandemic websites for healthy eating tips.

More information about community efforts is available at the SHIP website.

CDC released 2019 state- and territory-specific data on adult obesity prevalence based on responses from a telephone health survey through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. The Minnesota Department of Health uses this data to inform the public about obesity rates in the state, track changes over time and support planning of public health interventions to reduce obesity.