Illinois Adult Obesity Rates Steady but Significant Disparities Remain

New data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and highlighted in a new report today from Trust for America’s Health show that Illinois adult obesity rates remain steady at 31.8% in 2018, up slightly from 31.1% in 2017. The 2019 state-specific data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), a participant self-report survey, showed significant disparities in adult obesity rates by race/ethnicity for 2016-2018: The prevalence of self-reported obesity among non-Hispanic White adults was 30.8%, compared to non-Hispanic African American adults at 40.1% and Hispanic adults at 35.6%.
Adults with obesity are at an increased risk for many serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, poorer mental health, and more. Obesity is a complex disease with many risk factors. Differences in obesity may reflect differences in social and economic advantage, behaviors, or community or environmental factors.
“Disparities in obesity are strongly driven by the social determinants of health such as income and social status, employment and working conditions, housing, and education. This CDC report shows that communities of color and low-income populations continue to disproportionately bear the burden of obesity and its related consequences in the United States,” said Dr. Angela Odoms-Young, Associate Professor, the University of Illinois at Chicago.


In Central Illinois, partners are working to promote improved continuity of care for breastfeeding, the adoption of food service guidelines in institutions across the region, and the implementation of the Peoria Complete Streets policy to connect everyday destinations to activity-friendly routes.


“With an identified community health initiative to address obesity in Central Illinois, our local health departments are using ISPAN funds to help improve nutrition for moms and babies,” said Diana Scott, ISPAN Programs Manager at Peoria City/County Health Department. “In Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties, we are working with local breastfeeding coalitions and community organizations to support breastfeeding strategies, including the implementation of CenteringPregnancy programs throughout the area.”


“With invaluable collaboration between local pediatricians, hospital systems, lactation supporters, and the local community, the ISPAN project is working to make a notable difference in the health of the African American and low-income community in Peoria by increasing breastfeeding support and continuity of care,” said Mary Elsner, Director of Health Equity Initiatives at the Illinois Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics and ISPAN partner supporting breastfeeding work in the Tri-County region.


In Cook County, the Chicago Department of Public Health, Cook County Department of Public Health and the Chicago Food Policy Action Council are promoting implementation of the Good Food Purchasing Policy, a program that harnesses the power of institutional food procurement to create a healthier, more equitable food system. Partners are also providing technical assistance to municipalities to pass Complete Streets policies in south suburban Cook County to support building a walkable, bikeable and transit-friendly region, and are promoting shared learning to improve community support for breastfeeding.


“In Chicago/Cook County, the Chicago Partnership for Health Promotion, a program of the University of Illinois at Chicago, partners with Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), an important community resource for breastfeeding education and support, as well as African American leaders in breastfeeding to help close racial/ethnic and socioeconomic gaps and foster breastfeeding equity,” said Dr. Odoms-Young.


Partners in Jackson County are planning for improved walking in the county and recently completed a walk audit in the Murphysboro, IL to help the mayor prioritize investments in the sidewalk network. Partners are also working with day care centers to assess their practices for supporting nutrition and physical activity using a self-assessment tool called Go NAPSACC, now available to day care providers across Illinois.


“We’re geared up and excited about year two of the ISPAN grant project, as community and public health leaders are coming together to help create a rural tacticalism pop-up demonstration project. This effort not only provides much needed resources and opportunities to rural disadvantaged communities throughout southern Illinois, it also offers them a citizen-led approach to community-level change using short-term, low-cost, and scalable interventions. These temporary changes can show how streets can be made safer and more inviting for people, whether they are on bike or foot. These temporary changes can also catalyze long-term changes, which is what the partners and community leaders involved in the project are enthusiastically rallying behind,” says Angie Kuehl, Health Educator at the Jackson County Health Department.


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