Obesity Rates in Michigan Decline but Continue to Weigh Down the Country

ObesityBy: Mike DeWitt


After watching the obesity rate rise over the past two decades, Michigan finally stepped on the scale and saw improvement. It’s a slight improvement, but a decrease in obesity nonetheless!


According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the State of Michigan saw almost a 1% decrease in adult obesity rate. On top of that, it’s Michigan’s best state ranking – 17th – since 1990.


While Michigan’s ranking has come a long way since being the fifth most obese state at the turn of the millennium, the ranking hasn’t improved due to the state getting its act together to be healthier. Instead, the improved ranking is a result of the rest of the nation regressing into an unhealthy state of mind.


In 2000, West Virginia had the highest adult obesity rate in the country at 23.9% (Michigan was 5th at 22.1%). Compare that to the most recent batch of numbers which has Arkansas leading the country with an obesity rate of 35.9%. West Virginia, the most obese state to kick off the millennium, would rank just under 47th ranked California today.


Not the right direction for the country to be heading.

Country Obesity

Obesity is a major drain on health-care costs. A 2009 study estimated the U.S. spent about $150 billion a year on medical expenses associated with obesity. That number is almost double what the country spent on obesity related medical costs back in 1998.


According to the CDC, “Obesity reduces quality of life and is associated with the leading causes of death, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.”


There are a couple of things to keep in mind when diving into the data. First off, the CDC measures obesity using a BMI – or body mass index – of 30 or above. Since BMI is calculated using only your weight and height, it is possible for an individual with a large muscular composition to be labeled “obese” due to a high BMI reading. However, while there are exceptions, there is a strong correlation between BMI and more precise measures of obesity.


Another caveat with the data is how the CDC measures obesity rates, and how that affects comparing data over the years. Back in 2011, the CDC made some changed the way obesity rates were measured to better reflect minority populations. Because of the data gathering changes, the CDC cautions about comparing rates since 2011 with earlier number.


Because of that last point, it’s difficult to compare obesity rates in 2000 to now, but a stark rise in the country’s obesity can still be seen from 2011 onward. Back in 2011, 12 states had an obesity rate over 30% and none were over 35%. Compare that to the latest set of available data, and America has 22 states with an obesity rate over 30% and three states above the 35% threshold.


The numbers are staggering, and they hit even closer to home when you look a little closer.

Kent County ObesityKent County isn’t immune from the rise in obesity. Actually, far from it. Kent County has an obesity rate of 29%, good enough to park just between Illinois and Idaho in the national rankings at 28 and 29, respectively.


The obesity epidemic doesn’t show signs of slowing down, but it’s not something we as a society need to be held hostage to. While genetics can play a role, a lot comes down to a healthy diet and exercise! The typical American diet tends to be heavy on processed and high-calorie foods. Sub out unhealthy choices with fruits and vegetables. Also, make sure to stay active.


It’s not always an easy road, but it’s enlightening to know obesity doesn’t have to weigh us down forever.