KHI News Service

Governor: Assess state facilities for healthy food, activity options

Directive comes at state summit on obesity following expert's presentation

By Phil Cauthon | September 06, 2012

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.

"That's the sort of thing I want to see us do," Brownback said. "Let's get out and let's have some fun, get people active and get their blood going."<a name="continued"></a>


Obesity in Kansas: Quick Facts, 2010-2011

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High costs of obesity

The statistics on obesity were laid out in detail by Dietz:

  • 64 percent of Kansas adults are overweight or obese,
  • 30 percent of Kansas adults are obese,
  • Obesity costs the U.S. nearly $150 billion annually — or 9 percent of medical costs,
  • In Kansas, $1.3 billion per year is spent on obesity-related ailments such as Type II diabetes, heart disease and other complications, and
  • Obesity is a factor in nearly 80 percent of preventable deaths, the second leading factor in the state behind tobacco.

"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."

Dr. William Dietz, former director of nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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:

  • 280 percent of the recommended daily level of solid fats and sugars,
  • 200 percent of the recommended amount of refined grains, and
  • 149 percent of the recommended amount of sodium.

But when it comes to healthy options, Americans only eat:

  • 15 percent of the recommended amount of whole grains,
  • 59 percent of the recommended amount of vegetables, and
  • 42 percent of the recommended amount of fruits.

Creating new norms

Mark Thompson, who oversees health initiatives at the Kansas Department of Education, said his agency was working to change those trends in schools.

Mark Thompson (right), who oversees health initiatives at the Kansas Department of Education.

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"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:

  • 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week for children.
  • 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week for adults.

Photo by Stephen Koranda / Kansas Public Radio.

Participants in the obesity summit taking an activity break.

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"But less than 1 percent of the public know that these are the recommended doses of physical activity," he said.

Making the most of resources

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.

At the 2012 Kansas Summit on Obesity, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer introduces panelists in the discussion on a multi-sector approach to reducing and preventing obesity. They are (from left) Secretary Robert Moser of the Dept. of Health and Environment; Deputy Secretary Caleb Asher of the Dept. of Commerce; Secretary Robin Jennison of the Dept. of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism; Secretary Mike King of the Dept. of Transportation; Secretary Shawn Sullivan of the Dept. of Aging and Disability Services; Mark Thompson of the Dept. of Education; Acting Secretary Terri Williams of the Juvenile Justice Authority; and Dr. William Dietz, former director of nutrition, physical activity and obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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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:

  • Encourage child care providers to incorporate daily physical activity, perhaps through licensing or program incentives.
  • Strengthen state and community walking programs.
  • Work with university students to partner with physical activity programs.
  • Promote the use of wellness toolkits in workplaces.
  • Develop and support community centers.
  • Promote water over sugary drinks.
  • Work with retailers to improve access to healthy food options in food deserts.
  • Adopt policies that support community gardens and farmer's markets.
  • Adopt tax policies that encourage eating healthy foods.
  • Educate the public on proper portion sizes.
  • Involve food suppliers and restaurants in encouraging healthy options.
  • Encourage personal responsibility.
  • Standardize fitness measures.
  • Recognize mental illness as a factor in obesity.
  • Establish K-12 physical education requirements.
  • Expand the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program to all Kansas schools.
  • Allow adequate time and space to eat school-based meals.
  • Incorporate more physical activity into classrooms.

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