For Immediate Release
September 6, 2012

KDHE Office of Communications, 785-296-0461

State, Local Officials Discuss Strategies for a Healthier Kansas at Summit on Obesity

Governor: Strategies Presented will Support Statewide Efforts

TOPEKA—Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the Governor’s Council on Fitness hosted decision-makers from across the State today for the Kansas Summit on Obesity. The day long summit was held in Topeka at the Ramada Inn and included a panel discussion by state agency leaders followed by a breakout session for the 200-plus summit attendees to identify strategies addressing the rising rate of obesity in Kansas.

“Everyone here is looking for ways to get people more active within their community, so let’s act on this and not give up,” said Governor Brownback. “The obesity prevention strategies identified today will be examined and considered by my office, the Council on Fitness and the Cabinet Secretaries when we pare down our initiatives list and as we’re advancing collaboration among state agencies.

“This call to action for a healthier Kansas does not rest in Topeka. We’re already seeing great plans take shape in small and large communities across Kansas, and those ideas and activities were shared in detail here today. We’re committed to leading by example, and we must remember that improving the health of a community can’t be accomplished overnight. Let’s take full advantage of the resources we have – this includes our natural resources in the form of walking and horseback riding trails. I’m confident we can improve the rate of obesity in Kansas and reduce our risk for disease by working through the ideas presented today and continuing this discussion throughout multiple sectors.”

The Governor was joined at the Summit by Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer, M.D., and several Cabinet members. A morning panel included Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser, M.D.; Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Secretary Robin Jennison; Transportation Secretary Mike King; Aging and Disability Services Secretary Shawn Sullivan; Commerce Deputy Secretary Caleb Asher; Director of Kansas Healthy Schools Program Mark Thompson with the Kansas State Dept of Education; and Terri Williams, Acting Secretary for the Juvenile Justice Authority.

“More than two-thirds of adults and almost one-third of children in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and the rate in Kansas is no different from the national average. Obesity among Kansas adults increased from 15 percent in 1995 to 30.1 percent in 2010; in other words, our rate has doubled in the last 15 years. Nutrition and physical inactivity is now considered the number two preventable cause of death, behind tobacco use. The state has many programs directly or indirectly supporting obesity prevention, but we can do more to build upon current programs or increasing collaboration between community and clinical settings. For communities looking to make their streets safer for walking and riding bicycles, funding is a barrier but not a showstopper. I look forward to continuing these partnerships we enjoy with the local health care and service providers and working to strengthen more ties with the other sectors.”

Attendees and discussion group members included local elected and appointed officials, business leaders and other decision-makers from all regions of the state. The summit was sponsored by the American Heart Association, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas, Kansas Health Foundation, Sunflower Foundation and United Methodist Health Ministry Fund.

The keynote speaker and special guest at the Summit was Dr. William Dietz, past director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “In Kansas, an estimated $1.3 billion per year is spent on obesity-related health care expenses, and this is probably an underestimate. We have the vision for an active, healthy-weight population - parents and grandparents actively playing with their children and grandchildren, institutions offering healthy choices, people feeling better about themselves,” said Dietz. “Like the Governor has said, Kansas should build on its natural, agricultural and human resources. We need multiple strategies to meet our target of reduced obesity in America. One strategy isn’t enough. However, physical activity is the magic drug for everyone; it promotes health at any weight.”

The following is a sample of the promising strategies and ideas that came from the small discussion groups:

Pictures from the event

Governor Sam Brownback
Governor Sam Brownback and the Governor's Council on Fitness hosted more than 200 people at the Kansas Summit on Obesity Sept. 6 in Topeka.
Robert Moser, MD, KDHE Secretary
Robert Moser, MD, KDHE Secretary and State Health Officer, addresses the state and local leaders participating in the Kansas Summit on Obesity.
Rhonda Holt, vice chair of the Governor's Council on Fitness
Rhonda Holt, vice chair of the Governor's Council on Fitness, leads a physical activity exercise during the summit.
Panelists at the Summit on Obesity
Panelists at the Summit on Obesity discuss ongoing programs and the importance of data and awareness in preventing obesity.