August 5, 2003
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Pediatricians’ Child Obesity Policy Statement Mirrors Ortiz Bill
National Group Calls for More Community Programs

(Albany, NY) – The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement calling on doctors and the community to pay more attention to the serious crisis of childhood obesity. Dr. Marc Jacobson, from Schneider’s Children’s Hospital in Long Island said, "Its not just pediatricians who can solve this, its going to be the whole society." Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, (Brooklyn), Chair of the Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy couldn’t agree more and so did the State Legislature which in June gave final approval to his bill (A.2800a/S.2045a) to prevent childhood obesity.

The federal government estimates nearly 300,000 deaths each year linked to obesity, which is getting close to the 400,000 annual deaths from tobacco. A recent study reveals that one-third of cancer deaths are linked to nutrition and obesity. Another study found that one in three U.S. children born in 2000 may become diabetic. The NYC Health Department recently revealed that half of school children are overweight or obese. Over one-half million New Yorkers are diabetic and heart attacks are the leading cause of death among New York women. The Cancer Society estimates that direct medical costs from obesity in New York are close to $4.7 billion annually.

According to Ortiz, "Anyone who learns of these research results should understand why I am trying to get the government, business and the public to pay attention to the most costly threat to public health in this country. I am pleased that my friend Dr. Jacobson has led his fellow Pediatricians to take a formal stand. His input two years ago helped me develop the bill that we passed."

The Ortiz bill would establish a program in the New York State Department of Health to: develop media nutrition and physical activity promotion campaigns; implement school and community-based programs to improve nutrition and increase physical activity; coordinate obesity prevention strategies in government nutrition and recreation programs; sponsor conference on solutions to childhood obesity; provide training to medical professionals; and, track the prevalence of the problem in the State.

Assemblyman Ortiz also sponsors bills to: require calorie, fat, carbohydrate, and sodium content on menus; require health insurance coverage for Medical Nutrition Therapy; increase the quality and quantity of physical education in schools; and, fund obesity prevention through a small surcharge on certain foods, video games and other entertainment, and television ads aimed at children.

Dr. Jacobson and other medical specialists testified before Ortiz’s Task Force that childhood obesity is tied to increased consumption of snacks, soft drinks, and fast foods, increased sedentary activities, such as watching TV and playing video games, and decreased opportunities for exercise and physical activity. In response, the experts called for policy changes at the local, State and national levels for schools, nutrition programs, health and education programs, physical activity programs, food labeling and advertising. Ortiz responded with his legislation.

"We have to act now to prevent a ticking time bomb that will overwhelm our health care system and resources in the coming years. Obesity and diabetes are very difficult and persistent problems among adults in our society, therefore the State needs to direct resources to prevent it in childhood. We have to help local communities and schools develop programs. I hope this new study convinces the Governor to sign the obesity prevention bill into law and make New York a leader in the fight against this epidemic," said Ortiz.

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