For Immediate Release
July 2, 2009

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

KDHE Responds to Report on Obesity

A report released yesterday by the Trust for America’s Health underscores the need for continued vigilance to increase physical activity and improve eating practices. Data provided by a health survey conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) indicate that obesity in Kansas adults has doubled since 1992. 

Healthy People 2010, the health objectives for the nation, call for consumption of 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables and a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for adults – as well as 60 minutes for children – each day.  In Kansas, less than 1 in 5 adults achieve the recommendations for fruits and vegetables consumption and over half fail to meet physical activity recommendations, according to the state’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey. 

“Creating environments in Kansas communities that enable good adult and child nutritional habits and ample physical activity is central to our strategy for bringing the obesity epidemic in our state under control,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at KDHE. “That means making it easier for every Kansan to get adequate exercise as a normal part of their daily routines. It also means assuring that everyone in this agricultural state has affordable, local options for healthy foods, so they can enjoy the healthy benefits of eating at least five servings of fruits or vegetables a day.”

Dr. Eberhart-Phillips noted that anyone making drastic changes in their nutrition or exercise regimens should do so with the guidance of their family physician or other health care provider. KDHE works with schools, health care providers, non-profit organizations and other groups to create health-positive policies and deliver programs that are designed to reduce obesity and improve the health of Kansans, he said.

“Through programs such as HealthyKansas and the newer Kansas Coordinated School Health Program, we are reshaping obesity-promoting environments and enabling Kansans to make healthy choices,” said Dr. Eberhart-Phillips. “We also provide information and resources that help enable local groups to assess the overall health of their communities, and to identify the best health education solutions for neighborhoods, cities and counties to respond effectively to the root causes of the obesity problem.”

For example, the Coordinated School Health Program encourages schools to strengthen and develop district wellness policies. The program awarded more than $276,000 to local school districts last December.  Similarly, agency staff provide training to health and community professionals on ways to promote physical activity and healthy eating.

Dr. Eberhart-Phillips said that today’s tough economic times are contributing to obesity, a conclusion also reached by the report. He went on to note, “As public health funding becomes more limited because of the economic crisis, this will only serve to make the challenge of confronting obesity more difficult. At the same time, know that not confronting the problem will drive up our state’s health care costs and weaken the economy further.”

“We must continue to explore every option to fight the underlying causes of obesity if we hope to turn this epidemic around and improve our state’s obesity rankings,” he added.  

The Trust for America’s Health report is available at www.healthyamericans.org and at www.rwjf.org.