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Childhood Obesity Prevention in Texas: Workshop Summary
triple by 2040 if the state fails to strengthen preventive efforts in the near future. Lakey provided additional sobering statistics:
Over the last seven years, the obesity rate for young adults in Texas has increased from 10 to 20 percent.
As noted in Chapter 1, in 2007, two-thirds of Texas adults and one-third of Texas high school students were either overweight or obese.
In 2007, more than 20 percent of low-income children aged 25 who were enrolled in Texas’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) were overweight or obese.
Given such statistics, Lakey stated that Texas leaders increasingly understand the severity of the childhood obesity crisis. He reinforced this point by quoting Governor Rick Perry’s recent state address:
If we do not tackle this problem, not only will this generation of children be the first to have a shorter average life span than their parents, but we will never get a handle on preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. Let's address obesity where it makes the most difference, most quickly, with our school children.
Austin Mayor Will Wynn explained that when he assumed office in 2003, he learned that the city was ranked 19th or 20th among the fittest cities in the country. Although disappointed that Austin was not ranked higher, he was heartened by the fact that it was the only city south of the Mason-Dixon Line that had made the list. From that point forward, he endeavored to improve Austin’s fitness rating through a variety of means.
To reduce the $100 million the city spends each year on health care for its 12,000 employees—roughly half of which is accounted for by preventable illnesses—Wynn instituted the Mayor’s Fitness Council in 2004 to raise awareness of the costs of health care, promote better health and the prevention of chronic disease, and advance the city as a healthy place to live and work. Community stakeholders represented on the council included senior advocates, nutritionists, a behavioral psychologist, major employers, small employers, individuals from the public and private sectors, and children’s activity advocates. The council aims to support and inspire people to improve their fitness by encouraging physical activity and improved nutrition. Wynn advocates his own cause by running or walking to work every day.
The City of Austin also seeks to support the health and fitness of its employees by offering flex time, an active physical education program during business hours, showers at all city facilities, and bike racks. In addition,