Tag Archives: obesity

TN Child Obesity Rate Increases; Haslam Announces ‘Healthier TN’

Gov. Bill Haslam is traveling the state this week, officially announcing his new “Healthier Tennessee” initiative, approved by the Legislature in the past session. In timing, it seems appropriate since the Centers for Disease Control this week announced the first evidence of a decline in childhood obesity nationwide – though the child obesity rate actually increased in three states, including Tennessee.

Here’s the AP brief on Haslam’s announcement in Memphis Tuesday and, below that, the national story on childhood obesity rates.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a new statewide health and wellness initiative.

Haslam visited the Church Health Center Memphis on Tuesday to launch the “Healthier Tennessee” program.

Haslam said the initiative will encourage residents to be more physically active and eat nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. The program also asks people to stop using tobacco, or never start.

Haslam noted Tennessee is one of the least healthy states, with high rates of high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and heart disease.

The initiative will bring together employers, health care providers, health insurance companies, schools and community organizations to promote healthier behaviors.

The Governor’s Foundation for Health and Wellness, based in Nashville, will direct the initiative.

Haslam plans stops in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Kingsport and Nashville this week to promote the program.
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Legislators Skeptical of Haslam’s ‘Health and Wellness Initiative’

Some legislators voiced skepticism about a $72.4 million “health and wellness initiative,” a portion of Gov. Bill Haslam’s budget that was reviewed in full for the first time on Tuesday.
The plan includes $43 million for an anti-smoking and anti-obsesity efforts. Most of that will go to programs targeting teenagers, pregnant women and women with infant children.
About $5 million goes to the obesity program with officials saying they hope to enhance the state money with $20 million to $27 million in private sector donations.
The administration is also counting $24 million for converting the University of Tennessee’s coal-fired steam plant to use natural gas as part of the “health and wellness initiative.”
The project was announced earlier as part of Haslam’s original budget proposal in February. The original proposal was altered somewhat with an amendment outlined Tuesday to the House and Senate Finance Committees.
The coal plant conversion money comes from tobacco company payments being made to the state to resolve lawsuits. Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, questioned the conversion being part of a “health and wellness initiative” as well as involving tobacco money.
“I don’t see the relationship,” he said. “That’s a third of the tobacco settlement money (available to the state next year).”
“The logic behind that is that particular plant in Knoxville is one of the biggest air polluters in the region,” replied Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, who outlined the initiative to the House Finance Committee with Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes.
The anti-smoking efforts were questioned by House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, and House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga.
“That’s a lot of money and a lot of marketing,” said McCormick, suggesting the state has “some more immediate needs.” He also questioned whether it is necessary to explain the dangers of smoking, when most people are already aware of that – including smokers.
Sargent noted the state had allocated $10 million to an anti-smoking campaign in 2007 and added another $5 million two years later. He questioned whether that expenditure had done anything to reduce smoking among Tennesseans.
Dreyzehner said about 23 percent of Tennesseans smoke, according to most recent statistics, and “the needle has been moving down.” That indicates some anti-smoking efforts have been successful, he said, even though Tennessee’s spending on such programs has lagged far behind other states.
The new initiative will have long-term effect in reducing state spending on health care, he predicted, since it targets teenagers and mothers of small children.

Physician DesJarlais Fighting Anti-Obesity ‘Government Overreach’

Congressman Scott DesJarlais, as a crusader against government anti-obesity efforts, applauds a Judge;s decision striking down New York City’s attempt to prohibit the sale of large containers of soft drinks, reports Michael Collins.
I think it does send a message that both people and the courts reject that aggressive government overreach — certainly it was evident in New York,” said the Republican from Jasper, Tenn.
DesJarlais is looking closely at the New York ruling as he contemplates refiling a bill that would stop what he calls “taxpayer-funded attack ads” against soft drinks and other food and beverages.
DesJarlais first filed the legislation last year amid reports that $230 million in federal economic-stimulus funds had been used to pay for anti-obesity efforts that, in many cases, targeted the soft-drink and fast-food industries. Industry groups, including the Beverage Association of Tennessee, have called the ads unfair and misleading.
The bill went nowhere, so DesJarlais is trying to decide whether he should try again or look for an alternative way to tackle the issue. One option would be to amend a different bill to achieve the same goal. Another option would be to delve into the issue through congressional hearings on government waste.
The court ruling and the federal government’s cost-cutting directive that went into effect last month, the congressman says, would seem to provide “a target-rich environment for going after government overregulation of this type.”
“The further we look into federal tax dollars being used as antagonists against American businesses, we’re going to probably find a playing field that’s going to look in favor of the taxpayers and against the government,” he said.

Harwell Takes a Healthy Walk

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — House Speaker Beth Harwell is helping a group address the lack of access to healthy foods in low-income Tennessee areas.
On Wednesday, the Nashville Republican is expected to lead representatives of the Tennessee Obesity Taskforce on a walk from Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville to a local urban market to illustrate the difficulties Tennesseans living in so-called food deserts have buying healthy foods.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a food desert is a low-income census tract in which a substantial number of residents have low access to a supermarket or large grocery store. That means they may also have little access to healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
In 2010, the task force released a statewide nutrition and physical activity plan designed to reduce obesity and chronic disease in Tennessee.

Roe Overreaching to Oppose All Things Obama?

Included in a Robert Houk column questioning U.S. Rep. Phil Roe’s attack on new nutrition standards for school lunches – he calls them “overreaching” by the federal government – are several comments from letters to the Johnson City Press. He starts with this a poem from Joan Elliot of Unicoi.
Healthy school lunches
Seem a no-brainer.
Reducing fat and sugar
Couldn’t be saner.
Phil, you epitomize
The politics of No!

Further commentary:
…Most of the folks we heard from last week say Roe is the one overreaching in his opposition to all things Obama. In this case the Republican congressman is challenging benchmarks from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunch menus.
…Roe believes limits on caloric intake are not something Uncle Sam should be doing. He writes that one school official even told him that restricting calories will force lunchroom servers to count the number of tater tots they place on a student’s tray. (What will the Stalinists in the Obama administration think of next?)
One reader has suggested that if a school system doesn’t wnt to abide by the federal guidelines, it should give up the federal funds it receives and serve students whatever junk food it likes.
The tater tot controversy is ridiculous given what is at stake – the health and nutritional of Tennessee children. Earlier this month a report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that more than half the Americans in 39 states will be obese by 2030, with Tennessee predicted to be at the 63 percent obesity level.
…Left to their own devices, some school systems would serve nothing but the cheapest, prepackaged processed foods available. It’s not that these school systems don’t care about the health and well-being of their students. I think they do. They just don’t know how to do it on a limited budget.
Maybe Roe – the fierce anti-taxer – can enlighten these food systems on how they can stretch their dollars while Roe – the doctor – can tell how to serve healthier tater tots.


Note: A previous post HERE. The newspaper also reprints a copy of Roe’s guest column on the subject written for The Hill.

Former Sen. Kurita Gets State Job Fighting Obesity

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former state senator Rosalind Kurita has taken a new policy role at the state Department of Health and is drawing on her nursing background to help fight obesity in Tennessee.
Kurita, who once served as a Democratic state senator for Clarksville, told The Leaf-Chronicle (http://leafne.ws/yyD0Ya ) that she accepted the new position as health policy adviser with the state in December. Her salary is $6,500 a month, according to Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker.
“This is a wonderful job,” Kurita said. “This is such an opportunity to make a genuine difference in people’s lives.”
Kurita was ousted after state Democrats vacated her 19-vote win in a 2008 Democratic primary race after she aligned with Republicans to elect Ron Ramsey as Senate speaker in 2007.
She is already making changes within the department to encourage workplace fitness, including reopening a small exercise room and putting mile markers in the hallways to encourage employees to walk a few laps around the building.
“Those are all things that any workplace could do to provide help in preventing obesity,” she said.
Kurita, who was a nurse before she entered politics, said health and wellness issues have always been her focus as a public official. Commissioner John J. Dreyzehner said her experience in state government makes her an ideal leader in the fight against obesity.
“(Kurita) is doing great work by helping us lead health improvement within our own agency and thus walk the walk that we are encouraging others to take,” Dreyzehner said in a statement.

We’re Not as Fat as We Were

The 2011 America’s Health Rankings report, released today, ranks Tennessee 39th compared to 42nd last year, reports The Tennessean.
The state has shown steady improvement in recent years on the annual report, which is compiled by United Health Foundation, a nonprofit established by UnitedHealth Group.
“It is a testament to a lot of hard work from not only lots of government agencies and communities but also individuals,” said state epidemiologist Tim F. Jones.
“Obviously, 39th is not where we want to stay, but seeing steady improvement is a really good sign.”
The state is no longer the third-fattest state in the nation. The prevalence of obesity in Tennessee decreased from 32.8 percent to 31.7 percent. Tennessee now ranks ninth.

Obesity Task Force to Legislature: Fight Fat with Soft Drink Tax, Exercise Mandate

The Tennessee Obesity Task Force has made its recommendations for action by the state Legislature in the 2012 session, reports The Tennessean. The group wants to be sure all schools are complying with the state’s 90-minutes-a-week mandate for physical education, a tax on sugar-sweetened soft drinks and increased fines for speeding in school zones.
Rebecca Johns-Wommack, the state’s executive director of the Office of Coordinated School Health, said her office will spend the school year monitoring complaince with the 90-minute weekly physical activity law and must report back to the legislature in August on which schools are in compliance. Last school year, that was 85 percent of Tennessee schools, she said.
“We’re living in a fiscally conservative environment, so we are currently focusing on policies that do not carry large fiscal notes or that might actually bring in revenues,” said Joan Randall, director of the Tennessee Obesity Task Force. “Our policies attempt to raise awareness and create an environment that supports healthier lifestyles.”
Increasing the fine for speeding in a school zone by $50 could make it safer for kids to walk and bike to school, plus the money would go to the Safe Routes to School program, which encourages exercise through walking or biking to schools.
The soda tax bill, as its been dubbed, would place a 1-cent-per-ounce tax on bottled, sugar-sweetened beverages purchased at convenience and grocery stores, but reduce the state food tax by 1 percent. The bill, which was sponsored by State Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, last session, was held up in the House Finance Subcommittee. Stewart plans to present it again during the next session

Statistics on TN Obesity

The Associated Press
Here are some statistics about Tennessee from the annual obesity report by the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which measured obesity rates and related health problems in the 50 states.
Obesity ranking: 4, with 31.9 percent of adults. Tennessee ranks No. 3 for fastest growth in obesity, increasing from 16.4 percent in 1995 to 31.9 percent in 2010.
Diabetes ranking: 5, with 10.6 percent of adults.
Hypertension ranking: 5, with 32.2 percent of adults.
Physical inactivity ranking: 5, with 29.9 percent of adults not engaging in exercise or physical activity in the past 30 days.
Obese children ranking: 6, with 20.6 percent of children ages 10-17.
Poverty ranking: 9th (tied with Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia).
Gender breakdown of obese adults: 31.9 percent of men, 32.3 percent of women.
Overweight or obese adults: 68.3 percent.

TennCare Pays for Gastric Bypass, Won’t Pay Dietitians

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee is one of the fattest states in the U.S., but TennCare won’t pay for counseling by dietitians. However, it will pay for gastric bypass surgery.
“It’s like saying we’re going to fill your cavities, but we’re not going to ever pay for you to get your teeth cleaned or teach you how to brush your teeth,” dietitian Sarah-Jane Bedwell told Nashville radio station WPLN.
Almost all state Medicaid programs cover bariatric surgery, but only about half pay for services like those Bedwell provides, such as helping people modify their eating habits and going grocery shopping with them.
She charges $75 an hour while the average price of bariatric surgery to TennCare is about $20,000.
To Bedwell, the savings are obvious.
But TennCare Chief Medical Officer Wendy Long said there is no proof that paying for dietitians would save the program money. And she said TennCare is legally required to cover bariatric operations.
And TennCare does pay for dietary counseling by physicians, she said.

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