By LAUREN GENTILE
Capital News Service
LANSING – Michigan has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation — 32 percent of adults and 17 percent of youths are obese.
Now the state plans a new campaign on television, radio and the Internet to guide the public in a healthier direction, as well as to recognize success stories of those who have changed their lifestyle.
“Recognition motivates people and if we can get people motivated, then this will be a great healthy future for Michigan,” said Nathan Ohle, director of outreach and development for the Michigan Fitness Foundation.
To achieve that goal, the Department of Community Health is using its new 4 x 4 plan, which incorporates four key healthy behaviors and four key health measures.
“This plan will help us, help Michiganders, through a bunch of different mediums,” said James Haveman, director of Community Health.
Statistics show that obesity has almost doubled since 2005. If this trend continues, half of Michigan residents will be obese by the year 2030.
Obesity directly impacts overall health and causes many chronic illnesses.
And it’s more than just being overweight, said Angela Minicuci, department public information officer.
“Obesity can cause many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, arthritis, strokes, heart disease, certain cancers and even dementia,” Minicuci said.
With chronic illness come additional medical expenses that take a financial toll on families and employers.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a majority of health care costs are associated with chronic diseases, Minicuci said.
The department wants the public to be aware of key health indicators that are closely tied to chronic diseases: body mass index (BMI), blood pressure, cholesterol level, blood sugar and glucose level.
“The four health measures are something people should know like they know their name. Each of them has a different impact on the body and are important to our well-being,” Minicuci said.
The plan outlines key healthy behaviors: a healthy diet, regular exercise, an annual physical and avoiding tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke.
The department has reached out to school districts to help with obesity problem.
For example, Big Rapids Public Schools Food Service has stepped up and changed its menu options.
“This year we are now serving more fruits and veggies to students,” director Bob King, said. “There is a problem with it though — that is not what students are looking for.”
King said there seems to be more waste than consumption some days.
“We are required by the United States Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Department of Education to limit the calories of meals to 800 calories so we have smaller portions and less people purchasing meals,” he said. “I think the plan is working, but also backfiring. Kids are hungry and we can only do so much.”
Ohle, of the Fitness Foundation, said, “It is not just about what you eat. It’s about how you get out there and move. Exercise is such an important component, but many people are confused on what exercise truly is.”
Ohle said exercise is about getting up and moving.
“Running, biking and swimming are not the only things that can be considered, but tennis and dance can also be added into your daily activities,” Ohle said. “Even a walking group with co-workers is a start.”
The foundation has used the 4 x 4 plan and teamed up with the department to publicize the Pure Michigan Fitness Series.
“This is a website where you can plug in your location and find activities all around you and be able to be active in your community,” he said.
Ohle said the department is “taking it to the streets” by contacting schools and working in physical education classes and classrooms to promote more activity.
“If we can help kids at a young age, obesity will not be a problem when they are older,” he said.
The plan is in place for five years, but Mincuci said the department is committed to the long haul.
“It took over 50 years to reduce smoking in Michigan. Obesity will hopefully decrease faster, but we are ready to help the state change how they work, play and live and make it a healthier place to be,” she said.
By LAUREN GENTILE