Health Department: More than half of county adults are overweight or obese

McHenry County health officials want to put the county’s growing overweight population on a diet.

“Three in five [59.2 percent of] adults in McHenry County in 2007 were overweight or obese,” said Maryellen Howell of Woodstock, staff development coordinator with the McHenry County Health Department.

“Of that 59.2 percent, 23.5 percent are considered obese and 35.7 percent overweight,” Howell said.

In 2002, 18.5 percent of McHenry County adults were considered obese based on their body mass index.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

The increase in the number of people who are considered overweight or obese constitutes a real health threat, since the conditions are linked with a host of health hazards.

According to the nonprofit, nonpartisan Trust for America’s Health, healthy physical activity and healthy eating can help reverse or prevent Type 2 diabetes; heart disease and stroke; cancer; neurological and psychiatric diseases such as dementia, depression and anxiety; kidney disease; liver disease; and arthritis. In addition, antiretroviral treatments such as those given to HIV/AIDS patients do not work as well in obese patients, the Trust for America’s Health states in its study, “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 68 percent of U.S. adults and 32 percent of school-aged U.S. children and adolescents are overweight or obese. About one-third of U.S. adults (33.8 percent) are obese.

Sixty-two percent of Illinois adults are overweight or obese, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health, while the Trust for America’s Health puts the figure at 63.7 percent.

The alarming number of overweight and obese adults was highlighted in the McHenry County Healthy Community Study, which is conducted every four years.

According to Health Department spokeswoman Debra Quackenbush, the latest study began in March 2010 and was completed in March 2011.  

“As a result of this study, a work group was formed under the MAPP [Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership] collaboration entitled Obesity/Nutrition that is just getting under way with goals and objectives. Data from the study will guide this work group,” Quackenbush said.

Howell is co-chairwoman of the obesity work group.

“The purpose of the MAPP group for obesity is to cut back on those numbers of people who are overweight or obese,” Howell said. “We’re trying to get people to be more physically active and eating more fruits and vegetables.

“We have some ideas, we’ve done some brainstorming, but in January we’re going to be sitting down and doing our action plan for what can we actually do to reach the community members over the next three years.”

The group consists of representatives from the McHenry County Department of Health, Centegra Health System, Advocate Health Care, Sherman Health, McHenry County College, and the McHenry County Conservation District.

Howell said overweight and obese adults are the group’s focus.

“Although we could be a resource for the groups in the county that work so diligently on childhood obesity, the Healthy Community Study shows that the weight management of the adults in McHenry County is a priority health issue,” Howell said.

By the numbers

23rd: Illinois’ ranking among most obese states

51.5 percent: Illinois’ combined obesity and overweight rate 15 years ago

57 percent: Illinois’ combined obesity and overweight rate 10 years ago

63.7 percent: Illinois’ combined obesity and overweight rate today

5.5 percent: Illinois’ diabetes rate in 1995

8.4 percent: Illinois’ diabetes rate today

22 percent: Illinois’ hypertension rate 15 years ago

27.5 percent: Illinois’ hypertension rate today

Source: Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

For information: visit www.healthyamericans.org.

Are you obese?

Calculate your body mass index by visiting the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website at www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.

According to the NHLBI, a person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. Obesity is linked with a BMI of 30 or greater.

Healthy Community Study

Every four years, a McHenry County Healthy Community Study is conducted with the intent to improve the health of county residents. Download the latest report by visiting www.co.mchenry.il.us/departments/health/Pages/hcs.aspx.

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