According to preliminary data from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin (SHOW), 72 percent of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese. There is less data about the weight of children, but preliminary data suggests that 25 percent of Wisconsin high school students and 31 percent of children 2 to 4 years old are overweight or obese (compared to 12 percent and 5 percent, respectively, 50 years ago). Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer and other diseases.
To raise awareness of the issue and support diverse initiatives targeting the problem, the Wisconsin Medical Society has recently published an entirely obesity-focused issue of the Wisconsin Medical Journal. Titled “The Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative,” the issue is available for free through this link:
Faculty and staff from UW Extension and the Department of Nutritional Sciences are among a large group of researchers, physicians, government officials, and community and nonprofit leaders who use the issue to propose a variety of policy changes that could promote healthier living. These include:
- Work by schools to promote healthy behaviors by ensuring sugar drinks conform to policies regulating the nutritional content of foods and beverages.
- Efforts by early childhood educators to promote healthy behaviors by ensuring moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity for preschoolers in alignment with national standards suggesting 60 or more minutes of physical activity each day.
- Community planning efforts to promote healthy behaviors by implementing a Complete Streets-style policy to ensure safe, convenient and comfortable travel for those of all ages and abilities regardless of their mode of transportation.
- Promotion of healthful food options in supermarkets and convenience stores and efforts to make them more accessible to underserved populations.
Doctor John Frey, editor of the Wisconsin Medical Journal, puts obesity in the context of these proposals by noting that “If society is going to honestly address obesity, it needs to understand it as a symptom, not a cause.”