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Speaker Describes Fighting the Fat in the Lone Star State
Today's children are the first generation that may have lower life expectancy
If obesity were an infectious disease, we’d call it an epidemic. Speaking at the Feb. 28 President’s Executive Luncheon at River Oaks Country Club, Deanna Hoelscher, Ph.D., said the cost of medical expenditures attributed to obesity was $75 billion in the United States in 2003. And rates have continued to climb.
“Obesity affects all of us in our pocketbooks,” said Hoelscher, director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living, The University of Texas School of Public Health.
“My children are part of the first generation that may have a lower life expectancy because of obesity,” said Hoelscher, who also is a registered dietitian.
“The good news,” she said, “is our Texas solution.” A combination of factors has caused rates of overweight fourth graders in the El Paso area to drop:
- Coordinated Approach To Child Health, or CATCH, a program developed at the Dell Center, School of Public Health, using classroom curriculum, physical education, school food service, and family messages to promote physical activity and healthy food choices among elementary school children.
- Community - based programs such as Que Sabrosa Vida, which also was developed at the Dell Center at the School of Public Health, and Walk El Paso, together with media spots on radio and TV reinforce the nutrition and physical activity message with adults.
- Senate Bills 19 and 1354 requiring daily exercise for school children.
- Texas Public School Nutrition Policy.
To date, CATCH has been implemented in more than 2,000 Texas elementary schools, reaching more than a third of Texas children. The program reaches thousands more in Illinois, New York, Montana, New Mexico, Delaware and California. Colleagues are adapting CATCH in Bogota, Colombia, and in Canada.
Last year, the School of Public Health received funding to begin the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Advancement of Healthy Living in Austin. The center targets the childhood obesity epidemic, child and adolescent development, and community programs and policies supporting these efforts.
“In Texas we’ve seen some movement away from obesity,” she said, “but our efforts need to be maintained – for healthy children now and healthy adults in the future..”
By Ina Fried, Institutional Advancement
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