Today is the 20th anniversary of National Public Health Week. Obesity, the second leading cause of preventable death in the nation. To prevent childhood obesity families need convenient access to healthy, affordable food. Far too many families are food insecure, meaning parents and children do not always have enough nutritious food to eat each day. In addition, childhood obesity is an epidemic, causing life-threatening health problems such as diabetes and heart conditions.
In New York State, 25.4 percent of adults are obese and another 35.9 percent are overweight, affecting an estimated 8.7 million people. Overweight and obesity affect 40 percent of New York City public school students aged 6-12 years and 32 percent of students throughout the rest of the state.
Obesity and overweight can cause serious health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, asthma, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, several forms of cancer, and osteoarthritis. Not only have some of these diseases become increasingly prevalent in children and adolescents, but they have also led to New York being ranked second among states for medical expenditures attributable to obesity. Expenditures totaled $11.1 billion in 2009 with $4 billion financed by Medicaid and $2.7 billion financed by Medicare. This evidence supports the strong focus on obesity reduction efforts in the Prevention Agenda 2013-17, the state’s health improvement plan.
Since causes of obesity are complex and occur at social, economic, environmental and individual levels, there is no single solution sufficient to turn the tide on this epidemic. Successful prevention efforts require multiple strategies, such as national, state and local policies and environmental changes that support healthy eating and active living and reach large numbers of children and adults.
New York State invests significant resources to reduce obesity using evidence-based public health approaches. Through the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities Initiative, the Department of Health will provide $6.7 million annually to 25 partners and projects throughout the state which promote sustainability and healthy behaviors in under-served communities. This includes everything from providing access to healthy and affordable foods in schools to finding opportunities to promote physical activity through complete streets policies.
In addition, this investment will fund a Center for Excellence to provide education and training to the 25 local agencies to assist them in using the most effective strategies to accomplish their work in implementing this initiative.
For additional information on NY’s current obesity prevention programs and activities, including efforts by community partners to create healthy places to live, work and play, visit: http://www.health.ny.gov/GetFitNYS