A new report indicates the percentage of Iowans who were overweight or obese was almost identical in 2013 and 2014, however two-thirds of Iowans still fit into that category. Don Shepherd of the Iowa Department of Public Health says it’s too early to tell if this is the beginning of a decline in obesity rates in Iowa.
“We’re on the high side, even though we’ve paused this year and not gone up any,” Shepherd says.
The data on obesity rates comes from the 2014 “Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System” report. The just-released report found the vast majority of Iowans consider themselves in good health. However, health care professionals are looking for improvement in the number of Iowans taking important cancer screening tests. The percentage of Iowa women who’ve had the “pap” test to screen for cervical cancer has declined by about three percent over the past three years.
“I was surprised by that one myself because I hadn’t heard any reports of it doing down,” Shepherd says, “but it is showing a decline.”
More than 71 percent of Iowans above the age of 50 have had a colonoscopy — the screening test for colon cancer — and Shepherd says that’s a welcome increase.
“There’s a campaign out to try to get 80 percent screening (for colon cancer) and we’ve still got a ways to go for that, but we’re better than we have been in the past,” Shepherd says.
Nearly 67 percent of elderly Iowans got a flu shot last year.
“We were the top state in the country a couple, three years ago in terms of having people over the age of 65 get flu vaccinations and we’ve dropped somewhat,” Shepherd says, “but we’re still in the top 10.”
Nearly five percent of Iowans surveyed last year admitted to driving while they were intoxicated. Only one other state had a higher rate of admitted drunk driving and Shepherd says there are likely more who’ve driven while intoxicated, but wouldn’t admit it. About one in five Iowans surveyed in 2014 admitted to binge drinking. That puts Iowa among the top five states for binge drinking — and it’s not just a problem in college towns. Shepherd says it’s a “widespread” problem.
“It seems to have something to do with the geography of the country because the upper Midwest is a high binge drinking area in general,” Shepherd says. “Quite often four of the top five states in binge drinking are up here in the upper Midwest.”
Health professionals define binge drinkers as a man who drinks more than five alcoholic beverages or a woman who has more than four drinks on one occasion.