Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative Targets Neighborhoods

submitted by Jocelyn Riley; photo by Margaret Murphy

Vicent Cryns 9 12 2018

“Virtually every organ in the body is adversely affected by obesity,” Dr. Vincent Cryns, the Marian A. and Rodney P. Burgenske Chair and Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes & Metabolism at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, told Rotarians on September 12.

Not only are people’s individual bodies affected negatively by obesity, according to Dr. Cryns, but obesity also has a negative effect on society as a whole.  The cost of the obesity epidemic to American society is equal to 4 to 8 percent of our Gross Domestic Product, with disadvantaged communities affected disproportionately.  The even more discouraging news is that there have been three-fold increases of obesity and overweight in the past forty years.  Dr. Cryns cited several causes, including less physical activity due to factors like increasing screen time and the marketing of “tasty inexpensive calorie-dense foods.”

Dr. Cryns is involved with the Wisconsin Obesity Prevention Initiative (OPI), which is compiling and analyzing “zip-code-level data” to design positive interventions and coaching to help deal with this crisis.  OPI is currently working with two community partners, the Menominee Nation and Marathon County, to come up with place-based solutions to the problems posed by widespread obesity.  Possible solutions include incorporating nutritious foods like wild rice into traditional activities like community feasts and improving pedestrian and bike access so that people who would like to walk and bike more can do so safely.  Dr. Cryns encouraged his audience to find out their individual Body Mass Index (BMI; weight divided by height squared) and modify eating and exercise until it reaches healthy levels.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

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