Why we need Shape Up North
While the entire state of Michigan has seen a steep increase in obesity rates over the last several years, northern Michigan has its own, unique health challenges. The rural, expansive environment can complicate communication, access and participation in healthy activities, while harsh winters create obstacles which can keep residents inside and inactive.
The most significant health concerns in the region include increasing rates of obesity and diabetes. According to the 2015 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey (BRFSS), 38.1% of the population is overweight, higher than both the Michigan average of 35.14% and the U.S. Median of 31%. The BRFSS also reflects that a large majority of our region does not consume the recommended five or more fruits and vegetables daily (80.9%). Likewise, 73.8% do not meet physical activity guidelines. These factors are known contributors to the development of chronic disease. Over a five‐year tracking time frame, diabetes, a co‐morbidity of obesity, increased from 12.4% to 14.2% (Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative Community Diabetes Survey, 2007 and 2012).
When it comes to children, parents’ behaviors and attitudes toward food are strong indicators of their future health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Grand Traverse County has a 12.7% rate of obesity in low income pre‐school aged children and according to the MI Profile for Healthy Youth, there is a 10.8% rate of obesity in teens.
Across the region, one third of the population is living below 200% of the federal poverty level. Overall, 14.5% of children live below the poverty level and 16.3% of children six and under live below the poverty level. Children living in poverty often experience food insecurity. According to Feeding America, an average 11.8% of children living in North West Michigan have food insecurity. Food insecurity is a limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate food or uncertain ability to acquire these foods in a socially acceptable way. Children exposed to food insecurity are of particular concern given the implications scarce food resources pose to a child’s health and development. These children are more likely to be hospitalized and may be at risk for developing obesity and asthma. They are also at a higher risk for behavioral and social issues.
Obesity continues to been ranked as a top health issue in our region by the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment. Through SUN, Munson Community Health in partnership with Priority Health and a collaboration of businesses, organizations, school districts and community leaders, are working to implement specific measures to help rural northern Michigan residents reach healthier lifestyles through an established, proven and growing network. The primary goal of SUN is to create healthy communities by reducing obesity through increased consumption of healthy foods, increased physical activity, and supporting behavior change in our region.