New Jersey Starts Agency to Get Agressive on Obesity
> 5/29/2007 1:33:41 PM

Last June the New Jersey Obesity Prevention Action Plan, a document compiled by a state-sponsored committee, made serveral recommendations about how New Jersey could turn back an unhealthy tide and help its rising number of obese and overweight citizens. One of the most aggressive of these recommendations aimed to create an entirely new agency to oversee efforts to increase fitness and nutrition across the state. This week New Jersey made that recommendation a reality by forming the Office of Nutrition and Fitness.

The hope is that this new office, situated within the Department of Health and Senior Services, will help streamline efforts to get programming and information to the places and people who need them most by virtue of centralizing the decision-making and planning processes in one location. The New Jersey Office of Nutrition and Fitness is also notable, as the AP noted, for being the first such official state body in the country. The state is an excellent candidate to see if this type of action will be successful, as they have a sizable population dealing with fitness and nutrition issues.

The AP wrote:

The Garden State has the highest percentage of overweight and obese children under age 5, at 17.7 percent, according to a 2004 survey by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Obesity has become the country's No. 2 cause of preventable death (after smoking). Excess weight raises risk of heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, asthma, depression, arthritis and several types of cancer.

In New Jersey, almost 23 percent of residents are considered obese and another 37 percent are overweight, according to the CDC.

By taking action in this way, New Jersey has signaled that they are ready to entertain new ideas as they struggle to come to grips with the health care situation in their state. Obesity is a known factor in many negative health outcomes, and by forming a group to get out in front of this problem early and try to deal with the high population of younger citizens who are overweight the state is doing what it can to prevent problems before they become costly health care outcomes. Effective leadership and planning will determine whether this effort hits or misses, but only time will tell if aggressive action such as this will benefit other states with similar problems.

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