The present report summarizes the information gathered at a workshop held February 5–6, 2009, in Austin, Texas. Texas was chosen as a case study because of its childhood obesity statistics, demographics, size, and efforts to prevent and reduce obesity. At this workshop, committee members met with Texas lawmakers, public officials, and community leaders to exchange ideas and to view first-hand strategies that are being implemented effectively at the state and local levels to prevent and reverse childhood obesity.
The focus on obesity efforts in Texas is particularly appropriate given that state’s sobering statistics. Texas is home to three of the five cities with the highest obesity rates in the nation. In 2007, two-thirds of Texas adults and one-third of Texas high school students were either overweight or obese. Moreover, information released in January 2009 by the state demographer indicates that, absent preventive measures, the number of obese Texans will triple by 2040 to reach 15 million (Eschbach and Fonseca, 2009).
Texas leaders at the workshop expressed the strong belief that the state’s economic vitality and security depend on the health of its population. Accordingly, the state is no longer simply describing the personal, community, and financial costs of its obesity crisis; it is taking proactive steps to address the problem through strategic initiatives. An overarching strategy is to address obesity by targeting the state’s youth, in whom it may be possible to instill healthy behaviors and lifestyles to last a lifetime. A guiding principle of these efforts is that they should be evidence based, community specific, sustainable, cost-effective, and supported by effective partnerships. Moreover, the goal is for the responsibility to be broadly shared by individuals, families, communities, and the public and private sectors. A number of themes emerged from the workshop. These themes are summarized below.
Many individuals fail to understand the threat childhood obesity poses to society. Therefore, it was suggested that organizations targeting childhood obesity should consider including a public education component in their strategic plan.
Also essential is to engage members of the community in obesity prevention initiatives. The Paso del Norte Health Foundation has been highly