(Reuters) - Michigan's Republican governor said on Wednesday he will ask doctors in the state to begin reporting information on their young patients' body fat levels to a government registry as part of a broader effort to improve the health of state residents.
Governor Rick Snyder said physicians will now be asked to include information on the so-called body mass index of patients under 18 years of age to the Michigan Care Improvement Registry, a database set up in 1998 to track the immunization records of state residents.
BMI is basically a height-to-weight ratio that doctors use to measure obesity, a condition that raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, various cancers and hypertension, among other things.
Obesity is fast replacing tobacco as the single most important preventable cause of chronic non-communicable diseases, according to recent study by the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.
It is expected to add an extra 7.8 million cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 cases of cancer in the United States by 2030, the study said.
Snyder outlined his health-related push, including a proposal to ban tobacco at all the state's beaches, in a special message to the state legislature.
He said that 67 percent of Michigan adults were overweight or obese -- and that the problem was taking its toll on the state's finances.
The Columbia study estimated that, unchecked, obesity would add an additional $66 billion to U.S. healthcare costs annually.
(Reporting by James B. Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune)