A Fight Against Childhood Obesity Could Fatten the State Budget
Virginia's top doctor says there is more we can do to keep our kids from becoming obese, and slimming down, could actually help fatten up the state budget.
State Health Commissioner Karen Remley says parents are the first line of defense against obesity. But there's plenty the state can do to encourage a healthy Virginia. It's work that can save lives, save money and create jobs, all across the commonwealth.
"It's not just - I look in the mirror and I'm overweight. It's if I could look in that mirror and look inside my body" explained Remley.
Obesity leads to increased risk for diabetes, joint problems, and high blood pressure. Health groups are keeping a close eye on a new report that ranks Virginia the 30th most obese state in the country. Some advice is time-tested, and simple: More fruits, less soda and time away from the video games.
Marty Kilgore, the executive director at the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth explained, "Having less screen time is certainly an important step in getting kids active and moving."
The state is promoting programs to help trim the fat all across Virginia. That includes grants to organizations that come together to make healthy communities.
"It's important to bring all the collaborative partners to the table," said Kilgore.
The first goal, of course, is healthy people, but an added bonus, is a healthy economy.
"If I'm an employer in this state and I have to invest a lot of my money in health care then I can't invest that money in hiring more people," said Remley.
Plus, obesity drains the state budget, taxing Medicare, Medicaid and other services.
"That's a direct cost to the state," added Remley.
But don't expect a massive and massively expensive project across the state. Remley says it's best to tailor programs.
"We need to think about what works in this community, in this school, in this neighborhood," she explained.
Remley says it's critical for state agencies to partner on this effort. She says reducing childhood obesity isn't just a Health Department responsibility, but one that falls on everyone.
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