The shocking news about obesity keeps on coming. As IBJ reported in its Oct. 8 editorial, “Residents’ health a weighty issue,” more than half of Hoosiers will be obese by 2030, costing us billions of dollars in health care and lost productivity.
Obesity raises cholesterol levels, increases blood pressure and increases risk for diabetes, all of which are risk factors for heart disease, the leading killer of Hoosiers (32.2 percent of all deaths in 2008).
The American Heart Association has an ambitious goal of reducing deaths due to cardiovascular diseases 20 percent by 2020 as well as improving cardiovascular health of all Americans 20 percent by 2020.
Over the past several decades, the introduction of stents, life-saving drugs and other treatments have made a huge impact in reducing deaths.
The biggest opportunity for continued gains in these areas is in prevention, including reducing obesity rates, which as you stated will only happen with a combination of programs and initiatives at both the private and public levels.
Privately, we are working in schools to teach children healthier eating habits. We’ve introduced safe and accessible walking paths to encourage physical activity. We are working with local companies to introduce diet and exercise components to corporate wellness programs.
But in addition to everything being done to empower people to take control of their health, we realize that it “is also going to take an outside force to save us from ourselves.”
To that end, we supported and applaud the city for adopting the “Complete Streets” proposal. The government can make further inroads with these additional public policy proposals that will be set forth in the near future:
Joint Use Agreements: This proposal encourages local school corporations to open their facilities to the community after hours by eliminating liability concerns.
Removing Trans Fat…the Phantom Fat: Removes industrially produced trans fats from food preparation in restaurants and schools and requires that all foods brought in be zero grams of industrially produced trans fat as labeled.
Hunger Free Kids Act: At the national level, Congress must continue to bolster nutritional requirements for school lunches and education, ensuring that the school environment promotes healthy eating habits and physical activity.
The fight against obesity is daunting, but with the proper mix of public and private programs, it is one that we can win.
chairman, Indianapolis American Heart Association