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Obesity rises in state; 32 percent in Brown County overweight

NEW ULM — A report released by the Minnesota Department of Health Thursday shows that Minnesotans may be getting bigger around the waist.

According to the report, Minnesota’s adult obesity rate rose from 28.4% in 2017 to 30.1% in 2018, which means more Minnesotans may be at increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and other serious health conditions.

According to data also released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Minnesota’s adult obesity rate is slightly lower than the national figure, but the adult obesity rate continues to rise nationwide. Data shows that the national rate rose from 30.1% in 2017 to 30.9% in 2018, and in addition to being a significant health concern, obesity is also a significant driver of health care costs. In Minnesota alone, 2017 health care costs related to obesity were estimated to be $3.2 billion.

“Obesity is more than just a health concern for individual Minnesotans — it’s a major challenge for the entire state,” said Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm in the report. “Addressing this challenge requires an individual and community-level response, including smart changes to our food and physical environments.”

In Brown County, adult obesity rates trend a bit higher than the state average with about 32% of adults in the county considered overweight or obese — according to data in the County Rankings and Roadmaps report released in March.

The County Rankings and Roadmaps report also shows that about 21% of adults in Brown County reported not getting enough exercise or physical activities.

But state’s efforts such as the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) and local initiatives like the Heart of New Ulm (HONU) are working to improve or create healthy communities that have increased access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity in neighborhoods, schools, worksites and health care settings.

Melissa Hoffmann, a family health nurse at SHIP and Brown County Public Health, said the data released by the state health department isn’t immediately alarming to health officials, but they’d still prefer to see a drop in the obesity rate.

“The increases aren’t what we want to see,” Hoffmann said. “This latest report does show an increase, but it’s not really significant.”

SHIP in Brown County partners with the HONU action team, and through the partnership has formed a worksite collaborative team that operates as a facilitator of information and resources for workplaces.

With more time spent on computers and mobile devices in the workplace, the focus of the team is to help foster a healthy work environment for employees by working with employers to offer healthier options in vending machines and even healthier catering options, Hoffmann said.

Efforts are also directed at local restaurants to provide resources so restaurants can take advantage of technical assistance through SHIP and let the community know healthy food options are available on the menu.

SHIP also provides assistance to community groups such as the New Ulm Community Garden. It has helped the garden by providing a garden shed and will soon be holding a bike fix program.

“We know how important it is to have the space to grow healthy veggies,” Hoffmann said.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.

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