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October 25, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa — A new report, The Health of IowansPDF File , released by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield identified obesity as a common, underlying factor that contributes to the most costly conditions among its members in Iowa. Obesity rates have drastically increased over the past 25 years — so much so that if obesity was a contagious disease, it would be considered an epidemic both in Iowa and across the country.

“By taking a step back and looking at how our members truly use their health insurance, we were able to identify some interesting trends,” said Mary Lawyer, Wellmark’s director of community health improvement. “The obesity link was not surprising. Our environment has changed over time to include more conveniences that have made us become more sedentary. In fact, experts suggest there are more than 50 diseases today linked to obesity.”

What the data show

The Health of IowansPDF File reviews the top-five most costly conditions for members, their link to obesity and the national average cost for treatment. Those top-five costly conditions include:

  1. Cancer 
  2. Bone and joint disorders
  3. Heart Conditions
  4. Digestive disorders
  5. Back pain

The report also addresses the impact of chronic disease and the important role preventive care has in influencing positive outcomes.

Importantly, the report provides real solutions and resources consumers can use to take action. This includes adding incremental physical activity to their everyday activities, to using the resources and tools available from Iowa’s Healthiest State InitiativeExternal Link .

“Several of the conditions in The Health of IowansPDF File report are considered chronic diseases that are very difficult to reverse and prevention is key,” said Lawyer. “This report is designed to inform and encourage consumers to invest the time now — a healthy lifestyle not only gives back physically but also financially and emotionally.”