I live in Michigan, a beautiful state with a weak economy and a whole lot of fat people. Our governor, Rick Snyder, sees a connection between our economic and waste-line problems. He may have a point.
Technically, I’m one of the fat Michiganders. My current body-mass index (BMI) puts me in the “overweight” category. I’ve improved from obese, and am still losing, but for the moment I’m overweight, at least according to my BMI. (See my latest progress report.)
About two-thirds of Michigan’s adult population is either overweight or obese. As for our children, one in eight is obese. Overall, the Great Lakes State is the eighth fattest in the nation.
That’s if you see BMI as a valid indicator of fat vs. lean. There are problems with it. A well-muscled athlete with very little body fat can be classified as overweight according to BMI.
Governor Synder wants the state’s pediatricians to report BMI numbers for their young patients through a registry currently used to track immunizations. This would allow the state to create a fat-kid database. Names will not be included in the database. The idea is that reporting will foster conversations about weight among doctors, parents and kids, and that the conversations will lead to slimmer children, who will grow up to be slimmer adults.
Snyder also wants current adults to mend their ways. He wants all of us to monitor our blood pressure, blood-sugar and cholesterol levels, and our BMI.
I guess I’m role model.
Governor Snyder has great faith in data and data collection. As the former head of Gateway Computers and a self-described nerd, he comes by his faith honestly. I’m more of an idea person.
I do agree with his point that a healthier state is apt to be a harder working, more productive state with lower health care costs. I also agree that kids should be the major focus. As a recent study established, the longer a person is obese, the greater the risk of developing diabetes and associated health problems. So heading off weight problems in the young is likely to have the greatest long-term benefits.
But I think many, if not most, adults already monitor their health numbers sufficiently. What they lack is a viable plan for improving the numbers, and any expectation of success.
I have a plan that works for me. If the governor wants it, he knows where to find me.
Data Is Power: Michigan Fights Childhood Obesity by Tracking It. ABC News/ Health. 14 September 2011.
Gov. Rick Snyder tells Michiganders to shape up in speech on health care, insurance. Detroit Free Press. 15 September 2011.