Weighty Problem in the Fox Valley: Bad News, Good News

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Family Together

Contributor: Sarah Wright, Weight of the Fox Valley Program Manager

New data from area healthcare systems reveals some troubling news for the Fox Valley community; we’re heavier than we thought! The hard truth is that 3 out of 4, or 75% of Fox Valley adults have a body mass index (BMI) that classifies them as overweight or obese. Perhaps even more troubling; the new data reveals that 29% of youth in the tri-county area are overweight or obese.
It’s interesting to note that up until now we thought only 64% of the Fox Valley adult population were overweight or obese; not 75%, as we now know today. Why such a big difference? The new data was obtained through the actual measurement by healthcare professionals of heights and weights of over 91,000 adults from Calumet, Outagamie, and Winnebago Counties.

The 64% value was based on self-reported height and weight data; obtained through phone surveys to a randomly-selected group of 1,600 Fox Valley adults who were asked numerous questions about their health, including height and weight. Research shows that by nature, people tend to underestimate their weight, and overestimate their height. Think about what people typically report on their driver’s license, for example. Considering this fact, the three major Fox Valley health systems, Ascension, Aurora, and ThedaCare, united to create a system to pool their patient record data to give a better picture of the weight challenge in our community (while excluding patient names and other personally-identifiable information to protect patient confidentiality).
This new data becomes even more concerning when considering the increased health risks for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and even many cancers. Having access to this new data helps us to recognize the extent of this public health problem in our community, and give us even more motivation to find a way to change it!
The good news is that Weight of the Fox Valley (WOTFV) is set up to do just that. A community health initiative, WOTFV works with partners in many different sectors, striving to create a community where all people have an opportunity to live healthy and achieve and maintain a healthy weight at every age. To learn how you can support these efforts or get involved, contact Sarah Wright, WOTFV Program Manager, at sarah.wright@unitedwayfoxcities.org.

Read more in the Post-Crescent.