FILE - Overweight Kids Diabetes, childhood obesity

This Tuesday, April 3, 2018 photo shows a closeup of a beam scale in New York.

(The Center Square) – New data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows Minnesota’s adult obesity rate in 2020 increased by 0.6% percentage points to 30.7%.

Obesity is a known risk factor for COVID-19 and increases the risk for severe illness including heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. Obesity is also associated with poor physical and mental well-being.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated how health professionals address chronic health concerns such as obesity. For many people, the COVID-19 pandemic created high levels of anxiety, stress, and isolation which impacts a person’s weight, mental well-being, and physical health.

"Obesity and other chronic health challenges have been a priority for many years, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made progress more difficult,” Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm said in a statement. “Even as we work hard to address the impacts of the pandemic, we can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that those other health issues have not gone away. We encourage Minnesotans to safely find ways to work toward a healthy weight by being active, choosing healthy foods and connecting with friends, family and health care providers to come up with a plan to make progress toward greater well-being.”

Poor physical or mental health prevented 41.8% of Minnesotans who are obese from engaging in their usual activities, according to self-reports and a Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) analysis of Minnesota’s 2020 data. The BRFSS survey says Minnesotans who say they are obese were 1.4 times as likely as other Minnesotans to report that poor physical or mental health prevented usual activities for 14 or more days in the past month.

“Turning the tide on obesity will require addressing well-being in all sectors of our communities,” Malcolm said. “We also need to acknowledge the existing health disparities and health inequities and address the social determinants of health, such as poverty and lack of health care access if we are to ensure everyone can be as healthy as possible.”

Minnesota’s programs like the Statewide Health Improvement Initiative (SHIP), #StayConnectedMN, programs focused on mental well-being, resilience learning, and suicide prevention support positive well-being in school, workplace, faith communities, health care.

The CDC released state and territory-specific data on adult obesity prevalence based on responses from a telephone health survey through BRFSS. MDH uses this data to inform the public about obesity rates in the state, track changes over time, and support the planning of public health interventions to reduce obesity.

The national adult obesity rate rose to 31.9%, up from 31.4% in 2019. The CDC says the number of states in which at least 35% of residents are obese has nearly doubled since 2018 – and disparities persist. Minnesota’s obesity prevalence is below 35%.

In Minnesota in 2017, medical expenses due to obesity were estimated to cost $3.2 billion.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.