As a state, Michigan has a weight problem. With almost a third of its adult population classified as obese, Michigan has one of the highest average rates of obesity in the country. In a new report, Addressing Michigan’s Obesity Problem, Citizens Research Council of Michigan explores why high obesity rates are a problem, the potential causes driving high rates in Michigan, and the most effective solutions at the school, local, and state levels.

In addition to increased health risks, obesity results in significant economic costs for each and every Michigan resident, regardless of their weight status. Individuals, businesses, and governments incur costs from obesity through direct medical expenditures, the state’s Medicaid program, reduced employee productivity, increased employee absenteeism, higher disability and other employer insurance costs, and a decline of the state’s human capital through higher dropout rates and lower academic achievement in obese students. These factors decrease individuals’ quality of life, make-up ten percent of Michigan’s health costs, and diminish the competitiveness and economic viability of Michigan businesses.

The factors in our environment, which are magnifying the problem, are many and varied and include risk factors such as low nutrition foods in schools and neighborhoods, inadequate amounts of physical activity, insufficient health and physical education in schools, lack of community-focused programs to address obesity, a disconnect between the costs of obesity and who incurs those costs, insufficient coverage of treatment options by health insurers, and many more.

CRC’s report identifies roughly a dozen ways that school, local government, and state leaders and policymakers can effectively impact obesity rates in the state. These solutions include:

  • Strengthening the nutritional profile of all foods served on school property and in child care settings;
  • Requiring physical activity during the school day and in child care settings and expand opportunities for activity before and after school hours;
  • Including detailed physical and health education requirements for all grade levels, K-12;
  • Increasing state public health spending;
  • Taxing unhealthy foods and beverages and providing subsidies to make healthy foods more accessible to low-income families;
  • Pursuing local government planning consistent with active lifestyles; and
  • Expanding community programs targeting obesity prevention and reduction.

The full report is available at no cost here.

Appendix A was updated on August 20 to correct a spreadsheet error. Access the revised Appendix A.

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