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1 in 4 New Yorkers Obese… But Better Than Average

July 29, 2009

NEW YORK - The nation's obesity problem was put on a scale this week, and experts who 'weighed in' on the subject in the Journal of Health Affairs claim the percentage of obese adults has risen to 27 percent nationwide.

New Yorkers are doing slightly better, at 24 percent, at least partly because the state got a head start on the problem in 2005 by kicking off a "Strategic Plan for Overweight and Obesity Prevention." Ian Brissette, with the New York State Health Department, says the strategic plan has a dual focus for solving New York's collective weight problem.

"Right now, a lot of our efforts are focused on increasing physical activity, opportunities for physical activity, and encouraging healthy eating."

Brissette adds that obesity and its related chronic conditions cost the nation $147 billion a year. A report from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality also finds obesity hits Americans in the pocketbook, with those who are overweight spending almost $1500 per year more for health care than people of normal weight.

Dr. Dana Friedman, executive director of the Early Years Institute, says her staff is being trained to work in new outdoor classrooms, designed specifically to curb obesity in the next generation.

"It is a place where they jump and climb and play and run, as well as deal with the arts and music, and messy materials and building. We're really responding to the fact that children don't go outside as much; they are sitting too much."

According to Friedman, children of color are twice as likely to suffer from obesity; she believes their lack of access to green space is a contributing factor. Her group expects to staff at least ten open classrooms per year at schools, churches, synagogues and parks. They're now in operation at the Long Island Children's Museum and the Bailey Arboretum.

Find out more about the open classroom program at www.dimensionsfoundation.org, and the state's Obesity Prevention plan at www.nyhealth.gov.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY