Disparities in health obesity tagged as emerging issues

By Jeffrey Pieters

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

A growing number of overweight and obese children and adults is the top emerging public health issue, according to a report released Tuesday by the Olmsted County Public Health Department.

Public health director Mary Wellik presented the county’s 2008 Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Report Card to the county board.

According to the report, 60 percent of people in Rochester and statewide were obese or overweight in 2005, the most recent data available.


The obese and overweight share of the population is projected to increase further, to 75 percent, by 2020 based on statistical trends.

Other emerging issues identified in the report included:

  • Disparities in health in an increasingly diverse population.
  • Emerging threats to drinking water quality in underground aquifers.
  • A lack of ongoing mental health interventions leading to a growing number of people in the corrections system.
  • Higher demand for services from disabled citizens and seniors.
  • Unpredictable funding to prepare for disease outbreak, bioterrorism or natural disaster.
  • Threats to outdoor air quality.
  • Maintaining levels of qualification in the public health work force.

Also pointed out in the report is an increasing number of children living in poverty.
From 2006 to 2007, the percentage of children living in poverty statewide was level at 12 percent. But the percentage in Rochester increased from 8.4 percent to 11.4 percent.

Coinciding with the poverty figures, the percentage of children not covered by health insurance has also been increasing, and there are waiting lists for child care assistance and preschool programs that serve the children most at risk, the report says.

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