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Obesity — A Weighty Concern

Being overweight is now a major reason we are using more health care services.

Iowa is currently the 20th most obese state. South Dakota is ranked 17th.1 


Being overweight is a major cause for many health problems from heart disease to diabetes to high blood pressure to arthritis. In 2008, medical costs related to obesity were estimated to be as high as $147 billion.3 

Consider these facts:
  • Over a 10 year period, the number of newly diagnosed diabetes cases in the United States nearly doubled4
  • More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight5
  • Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States and accounts for 11 percent of all U.S. health care costs6
  • One in three adults has high blood pressure; approximately 30 percent of people who are obese have high blood pressure; the number may be as high as 60 percent in men under 457
  • Obesity is the cause of approximately 20 percent of cancer in women and 15 percent of cancer in men8
  • A review of 10 studies found that people who were obese at the beginning of the studies were 80 percent more likely to later develop Alzheimer's disease than those adults who had a normal weight at enrollment 9
  • Among individuals who have received a doctor's diagnosis of arthritis, 68.8 percent are overweight or obese10
What Wellmark Is Doing
  • As part of the goal to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016, Wellmark and Healthways are collaborating on The Blue Zones Project , a community by community, business by business movement to help Iowans make a lasting difference in their health and well-being. Ten communities that demonstrate the greatest passion, interest, and ability to bring their community together will receive assistance in developing and implementing a blueprint for making permanent environmental, policy, and social network changes that transition people into healthier behaviors. These communities will share their learnings with other communities in Iowa
  • Wellmark is working with communities, organizations, businesses, and providers to develop and promote programs and services that help people lead healthier lives
  • The Wellmark 3-Point Play  is teaming up with Iowa and South Dakota universities to raise money for community health projects in the hometown of each university
  • To demonstrate its commitment to health and wellness, Wellmark is encouraging its own workforce to eat healthier and move more
What You Can Do
  • Make small changes in what you eat such as choosing fruit instead of cookies or drinking less soda
  • Start a walking program
  • Get screenings and exams as recommended to help keep your health on track

1F as in Fat: 2011 How Obesity Threatens America's Future; Trust for America's Health & Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Washington, DC

2America's Health Rankings — The Future Cost of Obesity, Nov. 2009

3Obesity: Halting the Epidemic by Making Health Easier". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "State-Specific Incidence of Diabetes among Adults -- Participating States, 1995-1997 and 2005-2007." Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 57(43): 1169- 73, 2008.

5National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. "Do You Know the Health Risks of being Overweight?" U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. health_risks.htm (accessed April 18, 2007).

6U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Protecting Health for Life: The State of the CDC, Fiscal Year 2004. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005.

7The Obesity Society. "Obesity Statistics — U.S. Trends." The Obesity Society. obesity_trends.asp (accessed April 18, 2008).

8U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Obesity in the News: Helping Clear the Confusion." Power Point Presentation, May 25, 2005.

9Beydoun et al. "Obesity and Central Obesity as Risk Factors for Incident Dementia and Its Subtypes".

10U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "NHIS Arthritis Surveillance." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (accessed June 26, 2008).

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