Obesity is one of the most challenging health crises the United States has ever faced. Two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of our nation’s children and adolescents are currently obese or overweight, putting them at increased risk for more than 20 major diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer. But the effects of obesity extend far beyond physical health; obesity also affects corporate profitability and productivity. In Texas, businesses currently pay more than $3 billion annually for obesity-related healthcare costs. According to the state comptroller, this figure will climb to approximately $16 billion by 2025 if the problem goes unaddressed.
With the physical and financial health of our community at stake, it is critical that we immediately address weight-related issues. If we are to truly have an impact on reversing this trend, we have to collectively focus on eradicating childhood obesity.
Additionally, obese children have a greater than two-thirds chance of remaining obese at age 35 and suffering lifelong health and productivity challenges. Thus, by changing the behaviors and factors resulting in high rates of childhood obesity, we can reduce the likelihood that the next generation will be impacted by obesity’s widespread social consequences.
In November 2011, a coalition of more than 60 key organizations, community leaders and stakeholders came together to discuss strategies for improving children’s health. The group’s task was to collectively develop a plan for fully engaging the community’s expertise and resources to eradicate childhood obesity in Dallas County by 2020.
The coalition’s year-long efforts resulted in a comprehensive plan titled Charting the Course for a Healthy Future. This plan was introduced today during a public forum at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital hosted by United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and the Committee for the Improvement of Child Health, which was launched by the Dallas Regional Chamber.
Charting the Course for a Healthy Future offers a community-wide blueprint for addressing the wide range of factors contributing to obesity. The plan outlines six fundamental strategies for eradicating childhood obesity by 2020: assessment, stakeholder engagement, focus on schools, activity access, good food access and influencing of key decision makers.
The full scope of the childhood obesity issue cannot be solved by a single or simple intervention. This is especially true among minority children since weight-related issues are most prevalent in these communities. Poor eating patterns, limited access to healthy food options, lower levels of physical activity, lower quality of the built environment, social or cultural attitudes about body weight, and reduced access to primary care and nutritional counseling contribute to a disproportionate rate of obesity among black and Hispanic youth.
Charting the Course for a Healthy Future opens a community conversation about childhood obesity and lays out a comprehensive plan for us to accept the challenge of eradicating obesity. Now that a plan is in place, we all must work together to accomplish its goal. This requires the full engagement of Dallas County residents and organizations, as well as financial contributions from corporate citizens. I urge everyone to do their part to support this plan, in order to help our children live healthier, more productive lives.