Local News

N.C. Obesity Plan Seeks Improvement By 2012

Posted August 29, 2006 6:34 a.m. EDT

— Fighting obesity in North Carolina will be as tough a challenge as the campaign to reduce smoking has been, the authors of a statewide plan to cut the number of overweight people said Tuesday.

"Anyone who is overweight knows they didn't get there in a hurry," said Rebecca Reeve, a school health specialist with the state Division of Public Health.

  • On The Web:

    Eat Smart, Move More

  • On The Web:

    Trust for America's Health

    The five-year plan entitled, "

    Eat Smart, Move More

    ," outlines four goals: encourage policy changes that result in healthy living, get more North Carolinians to a healthy weight, increase the number of state residents eating a healthy diet and raise the percentage of adults and children who exercise.

    More than 21 percent of adults are considered obese in North Carolina. The study authors want that number to remain flat between now and 2012.

    Among children, where the obesity rate has tripled over 14 years, the state now requires 30 minutes of physical activity every day in kindergarten through eighth grade. State law now tightly controls soft drink and snack vending in schools and sets new nutrition standards in the lunch room.

    The new initiative also calls for facilities such as more sidewalks and greenways in communities throughout the state.

    The state plan was presented at an obesity conference at North Carolina State University, where a national obesity report also was unveiled by

    Trust for America's Health

    , an advocacy group that promotes increased financing for public health programs.

    "This document is what we're going to take to our meetings, our churches, our schools," said Anne Hardison of Healthy Carolinians of Carteret County. "I've been asked, `Just tell us what to do.'"

    North Carolina ranked 17th in adult obesity, according to the national study. The fattest state was Mississippi, followed by Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky in the top five. The leanest state was Colorado.

    Trust for America's Health, which tracked obesity rates, said more government intervention as well as help from employers and the food and beverage industry would help people lose weight.

    "If we're urging people to walk more, and their streets are not safe, that's an unrealistic expectation," Jeff Levi, the group's executive director, said during a news conference at N.C. State.

    "If we're urging people to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, and they don't have access to a supermarket or the cost is beyond their capacity, then we're not asking them to take responsibility for something they have control over."

    The report released by the trust said the highest obesity rates were found in the South. Levy said he didn't know why that was.

    Kathryn Kolasa, a nutritionist with East Carolina University's Brody School of Medicine, said higher fat in the diets of people from eastern North Carolina and other regions may have been a result of earlier concerns about underweight babies and malnutrition in poor, rural areas. She also said poor people who don't have regular access to food may overeat when they have money to buy it.

    The report recommends increasing by 14 percent the number of state residents who have five or more servings of fruit and vegetables daily and reducing the number of children who eat fast food three or more times a week by 25 percent.

    The state report also recommended greater rates of breast-feeding babies, boosting daily physical activity and eating more meals at home.

    `When you eat at home, you have greater control over portion sizes," said Sheree Vodicka, a healthy weight coordinator in the state Division of Public Health.

    Eating at home is likely to include "more fruits and vegetables, more milk and less salt and fat," Vodicka said.