State health officials say Minnesota has kept itself a little trimmer these days, and local health officials believe that programs offered in Pine County have helped make a difference towards that goal.
The state’s adult obesity rate dropped from 27.6 percent in 2014 to 26.1 percent in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Minnesota’s obesity rate is markedly lower than our surrounding states and we were still able to achieve a greater decrease in 2015 than our neighboring states,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “Achieving healthy weight for all Minnesotans is one of the key objectives for our Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) and its community and private sector partners. By working together we’ve been able to increase opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity for all Minnesotans in every corner of the state.”
Pine County and region
An East Central Regional Community Health Survey poll in 2015 shows that local rates of obesity are significantly lower than the state average – and Pine County is lowest in the region.
According to the poll, just 9.5 percent of the Pine County survey participants had been told they were obese, though 33.2 percent had been told they were overweight.
Pine County’s obesity and overweight rates were lower than the other four counties surveyed: Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec and Mille Lacs. The highest overweight rate was found in Kanabec County (41.9 percent), while the highest obesity rate was found in Mille Lacs County (18.6 percent).
Kanabec-Pine Community Health Educator Lori Swanson said that another health survey will be conducted in the region in 2018, and they hope that at that time they will be able to tell if their efforts have made a difference with the adult population.
“SHIP has brought community partners and stakeholders together in a new movement toward health; it has broken down silos and has given us a common goal to work toward. The obesity rates are reflecting this great work,” said Pine County Community Health Services Administrator Kathy Filbert.
Since 2015 Partners in Healthy Living (PIHL) consisting of Kanabec, Pine, Mille Lacs, and Isanti Counties have implemented 88 projects among 65 partners. These projects focus on policy, systems, and environmental changes around healthy eating and physical activity within the local community and school settings. For example; hydration stations have been installed in several school buildings and workplaces providing a healthy alternative to sugar sweetened beverages.
In Pine County, the PIHL program has assisted with initiating tobacco-free parks in Pine City and Hinckley, funded an on-site vegetable garden at Pine Technical and Community College, supporting bicycle trails and farmers’ markets, offering breastfeeding support, installing hydration stations at Pine City schools, and offering kitchen and playground equipment.
Fighting obesity in Minnesota
State health officials note that obesity rates can have a major impact on health care costs for related chronic diseases like diabetes.
In 2008, Minnesota policymakers responded to skyrocketing health care costs driven in part by rising obesity rates, by enacting SHIP, as part of Minnesota’s bipartisan health care reform legislation. Since that time, Minnesota’s obesity rate held steady until it ticked up from 2013 to 2014 (from 25.5 percent to 27.6 percent).
These latest CDC findings show that Minnesota has returned to historically low obesity rates that remains steady on a year-to-year basis even as other states and the U.S. as a whole continues on an upward trend.