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Sept. 6, 2012
TOPEKA In his opening remarks today at the Kansas Summit on Obesity, Gov. Sam Brownback focused on what it takes for a person to lose weight.
"It's the two E's: eating and exercise. It's not really complicated in my estimation," Brownback told about 225 health workers, government officials and members of the Governor's Council on Fitness, who gathered for the first time in four years to discuss one of the state's top health concerns.
Then, after six hours of presentations and discussion on the latest approaches to reducing obesity, the governor used his closing remarks to issue a new directive to the state's top health officer, Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
"I got a couple things out of this today that I want to address already. I'm going to assign Bob Moser to assess all the state facilities and our cafeterias for healthier lifestyle options — food and healthy activity," Brownback said, sparking applause and cheers.
"In the CDC's assessment they said they needed to lead by example," Brownback said referring to a presentation by Dr. William Dietz, former director of nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Well, we need to lead by example. I don't think we've focused on it. We look at the numbers and we say this is terrible, but then we don't lead by example. It's time we do."
The governor also said by the first of the year his administration would be announcing an incentive-based walking program to encourage teams across the state to form and participate.
And Brownback accepted a challenge from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas chief executive Andrew Corbin to walk five miles with him on a state trail of the governor's choice in exchange for a Blue Cross donation for the trail's maintenance.
The statistics on obesity were laid out in detail by Dietz:
"Virtually every system in the body is affected by obesity," Dietz said. "And these costs don't show the personal costs of obesity — the discrimination of obesity, the painfulness of obesity, the under-performance at work, the increased absenteeism at work. There are estimates that suggest those costs are at least as much as the direct costs of obesity."
Dietz said Americans tend to eat too few foods that help reduce weight and too much of those that are fattening. The average American, he said, eats:
But when it comes to healthy options, Americans only eat:
Mark Thompson, who oversees health initiatives at the Kansas Department of Education, said his agency was working to change those trends in schools.
"What we're really working toward is creating the new norm — so that when parents go into schools they aren't surprised that they can't buy a sugar beverage. That when kids go into schools, they aren't surprised that they can't buy a candy bar. That that is the norm and they don't think twice about it — the same way we think in terms of tobacco now," Thompson said.
Dietz said physical activity tends to be restricted — not encouraged — in workplaces and schools.
"We've taken physical education and recess out of schools," he said. "We've become increasingly car-reliant. We've shifted our work from manual labor to desk-related labor. And the impact of lack of physical activity is substantial. It's a major contributor to obesity and the co-morbidities of obesity."
Dietz said the recommended levels of physical activity were:
Photo by Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio.
"But less than 1 percent of the public know that these are the recommended doses of physical activity," he said.
Agencies will need to work more closely together to help deal with the problem, Moser said.
"Obviously the state's been facing limited resources for a while. Going forward more inter-agency collaboration has been Gov. Brownback's push from the beginning," he told KHI News Service.
As an example, he said KDHE could work with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to encourage physical activity.
"That's a way to make better use of current funds and current resources and get a broader impact, even if we're facing reduced funds and personnel down the road," he said.
"People work, live, play, pray in a number of different environments and all those settings have to be addressed as we go forward," Moser said.
Seven cabinet agencies were represented at the summit: KDHE, commerce, transportation, education, aging and disability services, juvenile justice, and wildlife and parks.
At the summit, seven workgroups each made four recommendations for preventing and reducing obesity. The recommendations will be taken up by the Governor's Council on Fitness at its February quarterly meeting, said Virginia Elliott, the council's chairperson.
These were the main recommendations:
The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy making environment. Find more about the News Service at khi.org/newsservice or contact us at (785) 783-2529.