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How Regence and Utah State University are combating the obesity crisis

Posted at 9:55 AM, Mar 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-10 10:55:26-05

It's shocking to think about, but roughly one-third of the U.S. population is classified as obese. It's a major health crisis considering obesity's negative effects on those dealing with chronic illness or COVID-19.

That’s really troublesome because adult obesity is linked to some of the leading causes of premature and also preventable deaths," says Jim Swayze, president of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.

Swayze says Regence is aggressively looking for ways to tackle the obesity problem. “As a health insurer, we want to work hard to help our members prevent and also address health conditions that can negatively impact the quality of life.”

In an effort to further understand the obesity epidemic, Regence has partnered with Utah State University and their team of researchers, looking for answers.

“We have these incredible, world class researchers, and what our job with Regence was to do is to really take this partnership to another level by making this research more accessible to everyone," Swayze said.

One of those researchers is Dr. Dale Wagner, a professor of Kinesiology and Health Science. He says obesity is a confusing situation for many.

“We could have two people that have essentially the same body mass index, they get a very different body composition. So, one person could have an excess amount of fat. Another person could have a lot of muscle," says Wagner.

The university's laboratory has state-of-the-art equipment to study the obesity problem, including what is known to researchers as the "Bod-Pod."

“You may have heard of underwater weighing. This is very similar to that procedure, the, the theory behind it or the rationale behind it is essentially the same," says Wagner.

Additional tools being used including the DEXA Scanner, which can pinpoint more specific areas of body fat distribution.

Wagner says, “You can actually get regional or regional body composition information from a DEXA, so for example, how much fat you have on your trunk as opposed to how much fat you have on your limbs.​”

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah sponsors regular Blue Plate webinars with Utah State, focusing on current research and issues that impact all of us. The public is invited to participate at

“We encourage everyone and we want them, as a health insurer and as their partner, to really live the best life they can and to really stay healthy," says Swayze.

Providing the public access to Utah State's Blue Plate Webinars is just one way Regence is helping Utahns live Healthier Together.