FRANKFORT, KY (July 23, 2004) – Kentuckians must eat healthier and become more physically active to prevent and reduce the incidence of serious medical conditions and premature death, according to the Kentucky Obesity Epidemic 2004, a report that documents the extent and consequences of obesity in the state.
Excess weight is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, arthritis and several types of cancer.
The report issued today is a joint effort by the University of Kentucky Prevention Research Center, the Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention Program and related divisions and branches of the Kentucky Department for Public Health in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Funding for the research project was provided by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Governor Ernie Fletcher said the obesity report is an important first step toward raising public awareness of this serious public health problem.
” I am hopeful the report and efforts to follow will encourage Kentuckians to identify and curb factors that contribute to obesity in their communities,” Governor Fletcher said. “Obesity isn’t a one-size-fits-all problem, so there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Every city and county has to find out what’s driving the problem and what can be done locally to really motivate and inspire people to get healthy.”
According to the report, slowing the rate of overweight and obesity among at-risk adults and children in Kentucky and weight reduction among those already overweight and obese can provide significant economic and quality-of-life benefits.
Medical expenses related to overweight and obesity are more than 35 percent higher for obese adults than for adults of normal weight. Last year, $1.1 billion was spent in Kentucky on medical costs directly related to obesity.
“Nearly two-thirds of Kentucky adults are either overweight or obese and almost one-third of Kentucky children are overweight or at-risk for becoming overweight,” said Dr. James W. Holsinger, Jr., secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. “We all face an enormous job ahead of us to educate people and to develop and execute obesity prevention and reduction strategies that work.”
While there are many causes of overweight and obesity, the report concludes that changes in society and individual behavior over the last 25 years are primary causes.
Based on those causes, health campaigns, policy changes and personal changes in eating and exercising habits have the best chance of slowing and reversing this epidemic, the report says.
“If stopping this epidemic were as simple as telling people to eat less and exercise more, this problem could have been fixed long ago,” said Secretary Holsinger. But, he said, it’s necessary to address the policies and environmental factors that seem to encourage poor diets and keep people from being more physically active.
The report cites changes that should be made to fight the obesity epidemic including making it easier for women to breastfeed their infants; motivating families and schools to help children develop healthy eating habits and regular patterns of physical activity; building communities in ways that encourage families to be active together; providing easily available, affordable and enjoyable physical activity opportunities; and, increasing the availability of healthy consumer choices.
The report explains the goal of efforts to address the obesity epidemic is not only to lower health care costs for individuals and society, but, also, to improve the health and well-being of all Kentuckians.
A CDC grant (State Nutrition and Physical Activity Programs to Prevent Obesity and Other Chronic Diseases) has provided funding to explore ways to encourage children and adults to make lifestyle changes that can help make people and communities healthier.
In addition, a series of public forums will be held in August to collect input from citizens with regard to obesity. There will also be a chance to interact with members of the Governor’s Get Healthy Kentucky! initiative, which is examining obesity and other issues that effect Kentuckians health. First Lady Glenna Fletcher will serve as a special advisor.
“As chair of this initiative, I encourage you to join me at one or more of the nine forums scheduled across the commonwealth,” Secretary Holsinger said.
Here is the schedule for the forums:
Lexington 2 p.m., August 2 Holiday Inn North
Ashland 1 p.m., August 5 Ashland-Boyd County Health Department
Hazard 1 p.m., August 9 UK Center for Rural Health
Louisville 9 a.m., August 12 Executive Inn West
Owensboro 1 p.m., August 16 Daviess County Cooperative Extension Office
Paducah 11 a.m., August 19 Four Rivers Center for Performing Arts
Bowling Green 9 a.m., August 23 Carroll Knicely Conference Center
Somerset 1 p.m., August 26 Lake Cumberland District Health Department
Northern Ky. 3 p.m., August 30 Scheben Branch Boone County Library (Union)
(All times are local. Registration begins 30 minutes prior to meeting)