January 26, 2004
Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy
(518) 455-5203

Nutritionists Call for Obesity Prevention Starting at Birth
WIC Program Advocates and Assemblyman Ortiz Call for Increased Funding For Nutrition Program to Fight Obesity

(Albany, NY) Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (Brooklyn), Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy joined representatives of the NYS WIC (Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children) Association to fight to expand nutrition services for needy infants and children. The WIC advocates are seeking a $5 million increase in State funding for training and education materials to increase breastfeeding and physical activity. Breastfed infants are less likely to become obese children and adults. Governor Pataki's proposed budget cuts State funding for WIC by $100,000.

This past summer the Director of the CDC stated that the obesity epidemic is the 'number 1 health threat in the United States.' According to the NYS WIC Association over 32% of the children age 2-5 who are participating in New York State are overweight or at risk of being overweight. This leads to illnesses such as diabetes in young children. CDC research determined that one in three U.S. children born in 2000 will become diabetic unless children start eating less and exercising more. The odds are worse for Black and Hispanic children with nearly half of them likely to develop the disease.

According to Ortiz, "Anyone who learns of these facts should understand why it is imperative that we respond now to the most costly threat to public health in this country. These are serious health issues that we cannot ignore, not only because of the suffering of the children but also because of the toll on our health care system, our schools and our future workforce. 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 and what better vehicle than the WIC program which serves hundreds of thousands of those at highest risk. I expected the Governor to propose additional funding in his budget for the new Childhood Obesity Prevention Program and instead he cut the WIC program. A study released last week estimates $3.5 billion of New York's Medicaid budget is obesity related. Doesn't a few million for prevention make sense?"

The WIC program has nutritionists and paraprofessionals who work with the low-income populations that are at highest risk for obesity and also likely to participate in the Medicaid program. WIC has demonstrated it can improve children's brain and physical development and potentially reduce Medicaid costs. However, the program is only serving about half of eligible children.

"We cannot improve our economy or society without healthy, educated and productive Americans. We cannot have productive, successful Americans unless they grow up with proper nutrition. I will be leading the effort to get my colleagues in the Assembly and Senate to add funding for obesity prevention and increased WIC services to the final budget so that we can provide a better life for our children and a better society for everyone."

New York State Assembly
[ Welcome Page ] [ Task Force Updates ]