Crow Wing County is battling the bulge in an effort to decrease obesity, a condition being called an epidemic in the United States.
Statistics show the number of people considered overweight or obese in Crow Wing County doesn't waver far from the national average.
"Crow Wing County's numbers follow U.S. trends closely," said Jackie Oelfke, registered nurse.
The Minnesota Department of Health recorded in 2003, the most recent data available on the department's Web site, that about 60 percent of the Crow Wing County population is overweight, or even obese.
Body mass index is used to measure whether a person is considered overweight or obese. BMI is figured by a mathematical formula using a person's height and weight to gauge total body fat in adults. Normal BMI is 18.5-25; more than 25-29.9 is considered overweight; and 30 or more is classified as obese.
A BMI calculator can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site (http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/calc-bmi.htm).
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, being overweight or obese is a growing problem nationally and locally. The following statistics show the estimated percent of the population that has a body mass index of more than 25.
Crow Wing County: 56.1 percent.
Minnesota: 55 percent.
United States: 57.1 percent.
Crow Wing County: 58.8 percent.
Minnesota: 58.4 percent.
United States: 59.2 percent.
Crow Wing County: 60.1 percent.
Minnesota: 60.4 percent.
United States: 60.1 percent.
At a recent presentation to the Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters, Oelfke said that since the 1970s, the percentage of obese children in the United States has tripled for ages 6-11, and more than doubled in youths ages 2-5 and 12-19.
"Approximately 9 million children over 6 years old are obese," she said. "We are all part of the problem and we all need to be part of the solution."
Sixty-five percent of all Americans age 20 and older and 16 percent of children and teens are considered overweight or obese, according to the CDC.
"Obesity is a hot topic right now, but really eating healthy is an old topic," said Gwen Anderson, Crow Wing County public health nurse manager.
Anderson said healthy food choices are something the county health department is promoting to area families, especially those with children.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC, provides healthy foods to 1,700 low-income families with young children each month in Crow Wing County. Anderson said she promotes the "5210" program to WIC clients, advising children to eat five fruits and vegetables per day, have two hours of screen time on the computer or TV, one hour of physical activity and zero pop or sugar drinks.
"The long-term effects (of poor eating habits) is starting to show with obese children," Anderson said.
Area schools also are stepping in to help combat the obesity epidemic. Colette Pohlkamp, food service director for Brainerd Public Schools, said more whole grains are being used to follow the recently changed food guide pyramid. Other changes being made in menus at area schools include offering baked chips and more choices of fruits and vegetables.
"We're hoping they'll choose fruits and vegetables instead of looking for snacks after school," Pohlkamp said.
Salad bars are being offered at more schools, and Pohlkamp said eventually all schools will have a salad bar.
A state and federal mandated wellness plan, incorporating physical education teachers, school nurses and nutrition programmers, will be in place by 2007 to blend health, personal well-being and fitness. A wellness plan for Brainerd schools is still in the planning stages.
HEIDI LAKE can be reached at 855-5879 or email@example.com.
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