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Illinois' obesity rates continue to climb

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Monday, October 7, 2019  |  Article  |  By Scot Bertram | The Center Square

Children, Teens (19) , Health (49) , Women/Men (96)
More Illinois adults are obese than ever before, mirroring a national trend.

That’s according to a new report released by Trust for America’s Health, which found 30.8 percent of adults in the country were obese in 2017. The rate among Illinois adults is slightly higher, at 31.8 percent. That’s up four points from 2012.

The report states that obesity is estimated to increase national healthcare spending by $149 billion annually notes that being overweight or obese is the most common reason young adults are ineligible for military service.

John Auerbach, president of Trust for America’s Health, says obesity has serious health consequences including increased risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many types of cancers.

“We’re seeing very disturbing trends,” Auerbach said. “About one-in-three Americans have obesity, and that’s more than 100 million people. And the obesity rates have been going up steadily for the last 25 years. This year they’re the highest they have ever been.

Illinois ranked 24th nationwide in terms of obesity rates, but the rate among children in the state falls into the bottom third.

“We’re seeing children as early as toddlers who are already showing signs they are overweight,” Auerbach said. “They are on the pathway for what could become obesity.”

The report lays out several potential actions to help reverse the trend, including more widespread taxes on sugary drinks. Cook County enacted a penny-per-ounce sugary beverage tax in 2017, but repealed it months later following a consumer backlash. Auerbach said there are ways to build support for the measure.

“When we’ve looked at the communities that have successfully adopted those, it really has been through work done at the grassroots level," Auerbach said. "Involving the communities that are most affected by obesity, hearing their concerns, and, in some instances, considering where they would like the tax dollars to be spent.”

He also said it’s important to show the research and the science that can point to that tax as effective in achieving health benefits for communities.

“This year there were a number of studies that showed that in those communities where those taxes occurred, the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages or soda dropped within as little as a year,” Auerbach said.

The report found that Mississippi and West Virginia have the highest rates of obesity in the country, while Colorado has the lowest.