Kansas health officials and policymakers gathered Thursday in Topeka to hear that no single strategy will reduce obesity in the state and everyone will need to help make changes.
The remarks were made at a summit on obesity, a meeting convened by the Governor’s Council on Fitness.
Gov. Sam Brownback, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of Health and Environment Robert Moser are among those taking part. Colyer and Moser are both physicians. More than 200 people were invited to the summit.
Dr. William Dietz, past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity, said reducing caloric intake, reducing television and computer time and increasing physical activity were all part of the solution to reversing the obesity epidemic in the United States.
“We need multiple strategies in multiple settings,” Dietz said.
Obesity rates have steadily risen in the United States since the CDC started tracking the numbers closely in the 1990s. Dietz said nationally that 34 percent of the population was considered obese, but that the figures were low because CDC numbers are self-reported by Americans.
It is estimated that Kansas spends $1.3 billion annually on health care costs related to obesity, such as care for diabetes and heart disease. Dietz said curbing obesity would improve the nation’s overall health, be good for the environment by getting more people walking and biking instead of driving and would save money spent on health care costs.
Dietz compared the national focus on obesity to the changes in the 1900s in attitudes toward smoking and the use of tobacco. He said public awareness and changes in policies curbed smoking over a 30-year span. He said views toward obesity were at a “tipping point” but it was unclear if that would result in changes to lifestyles and eating habits to reverse the trends.
Brownback said part of the state’s initiatives include improving opportunities for Kansas residents to take advantage of the state’s outdoor attractions, such as hiking trails and parks. Residents must work together and support each other in the fight against obesity, Brownback said.
“Don’t give up. We care for you, we love you and we want to make this work,” Brownback said. “You don’t have to be in bondage to your obesity.”