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Posted on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:56 a.m.

Survey: 60 percent of Washtenaw County residents are obese or overweight

By Juliana Keeping

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New county data show 60 percent of Washtenaw County residents are obese or overweight, compared with about half of residents five years ago, according to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department.

New county data show 60 percent of Washtenaw County residents are obese or overweight, compared with about half of residents five years ago, according to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department.

The findings are part of the county’s Health Improvement Plan survey, which it has conducted every five years since 1995. The health department plans to release 2010 data online within the next two weeks, said Keven Mosley-Koehler, a senior health analyst for the health department and the coordinator of the HIP survey.

The local findings will help determine where the county should focus its dollars and its energy in the future, Mosley-Koehler said. Residents will be able to look within the data to see how their communities fare in areas such as smoking, life expectancy, drug use and other areas.

The latest data show 26 percent of county residents are obese, up from 18 percent in 2005, said Susan Cerniglia, a public information officer for the health department. The county uses body mass index - the measure of body fat based on height and weight - to determine whether an individual is obese or overweight. Obese individuals have a BMI over 30, while overweight individuals have a BMI between 25 and 29.9. Mosley-Koehler said about 32 percent of individuals were overweight in 2005.

The county fares better than the rest of the state; two-thirds of Michigan residents are either obese are overweight, according to a 2010 report by the Michigan Department of Community Health. Nearly one-third of Michigan residents are obese.

The state’s sample size is not large enough to generate a detailed overview of health in Washtenaw County, Mosley-Koehler said. The local overview reviews disparities, she said, which often fall along the lines of income, education levels and other factors.

In 2005, about 25 percent of respondents from Ypsilanti were obese compared with a 22 percent rate for the rest of the county, the data show.

Using data from the 2005 HIP survey, public health officials created programs to increase the consumption of healthy foods and created partnerships aimed at increasing recreational opportunities in Ypsilanti, for example, she said.

Numbers released with the 2010 HIP survey data may reveal whether those programs moved the needle on the obesity epidemic locally.

“Communities can be designed in such a way that help individuals make healthy over unhealthy choices,” she said.

Nonprofit organizations use the data to improve public health, applying for grants based on health disparities that come to light because of the figures. The most recent survey costs $100,000 to administer, said Sharon P. Sheldon, the program administrator for the health promotion disease prevention division at Public Health.

Public Health kicked in $30,000, while partner organizations including the University of Michigan, St. Joseph Mercy Health System, Chelsea Community Hospital, Thompson Reuters and the Chelsea Area Wellness Foundation picked up the rest of the tab.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Follow special project Viking's War on Facebook and Twitter

Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

Prevention of Excessive Eating : King Solomon, the son of King David, King to Jerusalem or The Preacher had shared the following words of wisdom in the Book of The Old Testament, Ecclesiastes, Chapter 5, verse 18 : "Then I realized that is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of his life God has given him- for this is his lot." Man must eat and drink all his life and it is good and proper. Man must also find satisfaction from his condition called existence. The gratification of the desire to consume food and drink will provide an experience called satisfaction or satiation if man exists in a state called contentment. Man has the ability to choose the level of gratification that is needed to give him a sense of satisfaction by setting this bar called contentment at high or low levels. If I am contented with what I have, I am easily satisfied, and the gratification of my desire for food and drink would be easily accomplished without excessive indulgence. By choosing contentment, and by setting the bar or the level of expectation at a modest level, I do not suffer from food cravings and I experience hunger and satiety as needed for my optimal physiological functioning. I am not opposed to the measurement of Body Mass Index. What I am saying is, this Measurement by itself is a futile exercise as it does not measure more important criteria such as desire, gratification, satisfaction, and contentment that regulate the human eating or feeding behavior.

Pixie Belle

Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 1:46 a.m.

Improving public transportation in Ypsilanti would help curb this. There are some areas of Ypsi that only have a bus running once an hour by them and none at all on the weekends. Seriously how on earth are you expected to make the right choice of going to the grocery store. The alternatives are shopping at a gas station or liquor store,or buying fast food. There also should be more education in poorer areas about the Michigan Double Up Food Bucks program. This benefits us all by giving people who are on food stamps an incentive to eat healthier and supporting our local economy. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

A. F. Jackson

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 11:32 p.m.

I can't think of many better ways to spend dollars than on a healthy community. What is more important than that? Food, nutrition, health...pretty basic needs. So throw those poptarts away and buy yourself some fruit and some dark chocolate! :)

Larry Cobler

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 6:27 p.m.

As a member of the Board of Directors for the Chelsea-Area Wellness Foundation (CWF), I think the collection of these data and their analysis are critical to the development of meaningful Comprehensive Wellness Plans in the 5 communities served by CWF. The Foundation is taking a holistic approach to changing the way communities think about wellness. With the use of these data to guide them, we believe a coalition of community members can best decide how to affect change through a thoughtful plan that touches on increased physical activity, better eating habits, more connections with others, and avoiding unhealthy substances. The Foundation was happy to contribute to the collection of these data and support decision-making that is guided by the data. Studies show that almost 10% of healthcare costs can be traced back to unhealthy behaviors that are exhibited in our obese and overweight population. The costs to change these behaviors will more than pay for themselves in the avoidance those huge healthcare costs.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:59 p.m.

You can't force peopleto takecare of themselves but you can charge them a premium health care cost just like a high risk driver pays more for insurance. If you smoke, drink excessively, are over weight, or engage in &quot;high risk&quot; activities like skiing, sky diving, rock climbing, etc. you should pay more for injuries and diseases resulting from your lifestyle decisions.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:24 p.m.

What does THIS have to do with government????????


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 4:19 p.m.

As a tool for obesity screening, BMI is (all things considered) the best we've got right now. There are more accurate ways of determining body-fat percentage but these take more time or are more expensive. Nonetheless, if someone has a BMI in the overweight or obese range, there is a 95-99% chance that they have an elevated level of body fat (most of the exceptions are those with a lot of muscle mass). BMI is not very sensitive, though. Only 36-49% of people with elevated levels of body fat will have an elevated BMI. Bottom line: Unless you have a lot of muscle mass, if your BMI is elevated, you probably have an unhealthy amount of body fat. If your BMI is normal, that really doesn't tell you much; the amount of your body fat could still be at an unhealthy level. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

When the government heavily subsidizes grains and other high-carb foods, what did you expect? Synthetic food additives are FDA approved. Try to sell raw milk and they'll send in a SWAT team. Somehow I don't think spending even more money on government &quot;help&quot; is going to improve things.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT - WHAT IS FOOD ? I will continue to discuss this issue to elicit a response from Washtenaw County Public Health Department and the University of Michigan which has claimed that they are investigating the problem of Obesity. The word obesity describes the act of devouring food or it is about eating. We need to know the nature of food and its functions to understand as to why some people indulge in excessive eating. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 3:54 p.m.

&quot;obese&quot; is a term du-jour. I was thin for all of my life. A few years ago I got really sick. I was given the choice between two medications, one had the side effect of weight gain with little other side effects. The other had no weight gain side-effect but could cause liver failure and headaches. Oh gee thanks, I chose to &quot;get fat&quot;. Did I, yes, has it been hard, yes, I miss my thin clothes, it is hard to lose five pounds even though I haven't been on the needed medication for over four years. I eat healthy, never smoked or drank, and I also run. I never ran when I was thin, now I run at a decent pace, I even have a treadmill so I can run everynight a couple miles. I walk my dog a mile a day at least. I stretch and strength train. I don't sit around eating bon-bons and fried chicken. My body doesn't hurt and I am healthy. Being &quot;overweight&quot; now I can totally see how non skinny people are treated, it isn't a phantom discrimination, it is really. People assume you have no self-control, no self-respect and that you are lazy. Many fat people have medical conditions and sure some just want to stuff their faces. Many skinny people are sickly. people are accepting of many different lifestyles, yet being fat is an abhorrance.


Wed, Oct 26, 2011 : 3:15 p.m.

my biases? sure, I don't like shallow people, never have. When I was thin it bugged me when someone would make a comment about a fat person, you don't know that persons story, you can't assume that all fat people all live seditary and are impulsive or emotional eaters or make poor food choices. Being fat was a choice, one brought on by a life/death situation, so am I happy fat? yes, actually I am, becuase I am alive. Love was more important than being thin.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

And I'm sure bunnyabbot has her biases also.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

&quot;people are accepting of many different lifestyles, yet being fat is an abhorrence.&quot; Your right some people are very accepting of different lifestyles but look down their noses at someone that is over weight. We don't agree on much but I do agree with you on this! I have never had a weight problem myself. But it certainly is not because of my self control! Love those sweets! And meat and potatoes.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

... And the remaining 40% mostly walk or run, but can't cross the street because the 60% won't yield to them in marked crosswalks!

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:10 p.m.

We need more serious bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in Ann Arbor. I know for some the idea of walking or bicycling is quaint. Perhaps they are the 60% in this article? The comments regarding the new crosswalk law are very telling. They suggest a large percentage of drivers don't understand even the current state law that requires them to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Even if it is only a local effort in Ann Arbor, we need to fix that. There is a new Costco being built South of I-94. And yet there is no way for a pedestrian or bicyclist to get there via State Street.

Ron Granger

Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

I don't know how they can possibly prove such a thing, because I know for a fact that my scale is broken.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 1:26 p.m.

The word Obese has taken on a different meaning in the last 30 years. We are now calling people &quot;Obese&quot; that would never have been considered obese in the past. I prefer the following chart. Skinny Thin Normal Pleasingly Plump Porker


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:28 p.m.



Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:26 p.m.

Instead of spending $750,000 on a water feature for the new city hall, the money could have been used to promote activities to get people off their duffs and burn off the extra fat. Losing weight is not rocket science. You need to burn off more than you take in. Controlling the intake is probably that most difficult part since there are so many tasty things that are not in your best interest. Education and support mechanisms provide the best solutions to helping that side. Having programs to promote exercise helps to encourage the other half. Group walks or runs, bicycling, team sports, and outdoor (and even indoor) activities that are well promoted will help to encourage the exercise that is necessary to ensure weight loss and weight maintenance.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

I guess sometimes &quot;progress&quot; has a downside. What is really sad is when you look at the kids in schools. So many overweight kids. It really is tragic. It's the only thing they will ever know. Adults becoming obese can always look back at &quot;the good old days&quot; when they were lean and mean, but these kids can't even do that.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 10:39 a.m.

Let's waste tax money on this! Pass me another pop-tart.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 10:33 a.m.

Maybe the Health Improvement Plan should focus it's energy and dollars on teaching Self Discipline to residents.


Tue, Oct 25, 2011 : 12:08 p.m.

Thanks for the laugh, I think I'm in the last generation that knew what the word &quot;NO&quot; means.